The development of electric cars is “potentially our biggest problem” in boosting active travel, according to Greater Manchester cycling and walking commissioner Chris Boardman.

The Olympic cycling gold medallist told MPs that switching from petrol and diesel cars to electrified models “gives us a reason to not change” how journeys are made.

Giving evidence to the Transport Select Committee, Mr Boardman said a “car-led recovery” from the coronavirus pandemic is “inevitable” unless more action is taken to create “safe space for people to travel differently”.

The UK has “saturated our streets with car use”, he claimed.

“Electric vehicles are potentially our biggest problem, because they give us a reason to not change,” he added.

“And that means that we won’t get any more space back.”

He went on: “It doesn’t touch our health. It doesn’t touch most of the problems. It impacts one tiny small amount of very localised pollution.”

Mr Boardman described how the UK’s “aspiration” of reducing carbon emissions “doesn’t align” with the actions being taken.

“We’re having to fight – as is happening in London – for every bit of space to allow people to travel differently”, he explained.

“The bigger-picture reality is we have to. We are facing – it’s not hyperbole to say – a species-level crisis.

“This is the kind of small, macro-action that we need to take to resolve that.”

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show pure battery-electric new cars held a 6.6% share of the new car market in 2020, up from 1.6% during the previous 12 months.

Encouraging take-up of electric cars is a key part of the Government’s efforts to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

This includes banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030.