YORK could build on its reputations as a cycle city to become the first zero-emission centre in the country when the lockdown is lifted.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps announced at the weekend the government wants at least one city centre to be restricted to bikes and electric vehicles as part of the government's £2bn pound boost to get people walking and cycling and to cut emissions.

York Labour group has written to council leaders calling on them to push York forward to be chosen as the first zero-emission city centre.

They are being supported by City of York Council deputy leader, Green Party councillor Andy D’Agorne. The city is already backing a ban on private car journeys within the city walls by 2023 except for disabled travellers.

Cllr Jonny Crawshaw said: “Though Grant Shapps isn’t a natural ally of Labour we were pleased to hear how much Government thinking on future transport policy chimes with the steps York has already begun to take towards a lower-car, low-carbon, people-friendly city.

“Lockdown has given us a glimpse of what significantly quieter, more peaceful streets can be like.

“Fewer cars on the roads has already led to vast improvements in air quality and it’s been great to see more people, including many families, getting out and about on their bikes, exploring parts of the city they might not previously have felt safe venturing into on two-wheels. We are really keen to find ways of retaining these gains as and when the lockdown is gradually eased.”

York is the first city in the country to roll out a voluntary clean air zone. Cllr D’Agorne said environmentally friendly transport has also been boosted, including getting greener buses and plans for electric vehicle charging hubs.

Anti-idling fines of £20 for anyone who refuses to switch off a parked vehicle when asked were also launched last year.

Cllr D’Agorne added: “I think York would be in a very strong position to bid for this zero emission city. I would be very supportive of the idea, as with everything our chances depend on circumstances.”

The government is due to publish a new cycling strategy in June as part of the transport transformation.