As a result of growing pressure from environmental groups to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, transport minister Dr Stephen Ladyman has announced plans to create cycle lanes on the whole of the UK's motorway network.
The exact logistics have yet to be decided but it is believed that each of the three lanes of each carriageway will be narrowed so that the hard shoulder can be moved three feet towards the central reservation and the cycle lane built along the inside of the hard shoulder. It was initially intended to replace the central reservation with a single two-way cycle lane but planners were unable to overcome the problem of getting cyclists onto the lane without building flyovers at each motorway junction. They were also concerned that cyclists going in both directions in a single lane could result in multiple pile-ups.
The whole exercise is expected to take 28 years, with work being carried out on all motorways simultaneously. Dr Ladyman stresses that inconvenience to motorists will be kept to a minimum. "We plan to work on mile-long sections at a time on only one carriageway," he said, "channelling all of the traffic into the other carriageway. For the safety of the road crews, the 40 mph speed limit will apply for three miles before the section being worked on, with speed cameras in abundance. It is estimated that each mile-long section will take about eleven weeks to complete and then the whole process will be shunted one mile further along."
Estimated costs are £2.3 billion although Dr. Ladyman admits that this figure could double before the job is finished. However, he stresses that motorists won't be footing the bill. The cash is expected to be raised by charging cyclists a flat rate of 40p per mile for using the lanes.
The plans have been enthusiastically endorsed by groups such as Friends of the Earth but have been received with much less enthusiasm by Britain's beleaguered motorists. "Bloody cyclists are a pain in the arse," said one irate motorist. "They don't pay any road tax and now they're going to take over our bloody motorways. Has the bloody government gone stark staring bloody mad?"
Work is expected to begin in early July.