“THIS should be a golden age for cycling”, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in Parliament in May as the Government announced a huge financial package to support and improve cycling infrastructure, and to encourage more people to take up two wheels.

An increased interest in cycling has come during a global pandemic that saw millions of people living and travelling in new ways.

Bike sales in the UK increased by 60 per cent in April with many shop owners and suppliers reportedly sold out of bikes for all abilities due to the increased demand.

In a bid to capitalise on a golden age for cycling, the Department for Transport recently announced that pop-up bike lanes with protected space for cycling, wider pavements, safer junctions, and cycle and bus-only corridors would be created as part of a £250m emergency active travel fund - the first stage of a £2bn investment.

Bike4Health, based in Kirkley, near Ponteland, was established in 2014 as a community interest company, and has since positively impacted more than 4,000 children in 27 schools throughout the North-East through cycling programmes.

Co-director, Dave Buchan, said he hoped the proposals of increased infrastructure would be a game changer for cycling.

“In the past, bike paths would almost be a tick box exercise, and it was almost like a token gesture, but now we’re getting some proper infrastructure,” he said. “I’ve been in the bike industry 40 years and it’s unprecedented what is happening right now; it’s phenomenal.”

One of the company’s key messages was to make bikes part of everyday life for more people, promote personal, physical and mental wellbeing and bring communities together through a range of cycling activities.

Commenting on the funding, designed to improve cycling nationally, Dave said: “It’s not just an infrastructure, an education is also needed to get everybody on board with it.”

A study commissioned by British Cycling said that Danish levels of cycling in the UK would save the NHS £17bn within 20 years due to a reductions in rates of diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

“To get to that point in this country, it would take millions of investment, but it also requires a cultural change and more acceptance,” Dave said.

An integral part of Bike4Health’s community work was engaging with and educating at schools. Dave explained: “We go into a school and our education can start with a yard-based activity. Then we talk about how we can link it to the curriculum. Straight away you are getting kids confident on bikes and active, but also learning. The cultural change has to start from an early age.”

County councillor for Corbridge, Coun. Nick Oliver, has been fighting for a cycling route between Corbridge and Hexham for the past two years, and a recent community bike ride between Hexham and Corbridge, campaigning for better cycling infrastructure in the Tyne Valley, was hailed as a success earlier this month.

In North Tyneside, between Whitley Bay and Tynemouth, cycle paths have caused great division among residents and business owners, but their introduction has positively promoted safety and the environment while offering an insight into the future of local transport systems.

Dave added: “It’s active travel, it’s saving the planet and it’s keeping you healthy. It’s not just exercise, it’s the fact you’re out there exploring.”