The government has said that it is making it easier for councils in England to temporarily close streets to motor vehicles during the coronavirus pandemic. Relaxation of the rules would also let local authorities take space away from motor traffic and reallocate it to pedestrians and cyclists instead.
BBC News reports that existing rules that councils have to follow and which mean it can take a number of weeks for proposed closures to take effect are being relaxed for as long as the crisis lasts.
Among other things, the measure is said to be aimed at helping people travelling by foot or on bikes to maintain social distance.
A letter sent by the Department for Transport (DfT) to local authorities in England said: “This is temporary guidance and will be withdrawn once conditions allow.”
The government has been urged to make it easier for councils to implement road closures by campaign groups including British Cycling, Cycling UK and Sustrans.
London Cycling Campaign’s CEO Ashok Sinha told BBC News: “First we have a moral responsibility to keep staff safe whilst cycling to work during the crisis.
“We know this crisis will end - but we will still be faced with an ongoing climate crisis which, longer term, will cause much more loss of life.
“We are being taught a lesson here about what a difference it makes to people’s activity and air quality and carbon emissions if we allow people to cycle safely.”
London’s cycling and walking commissioner Will Norman has said that Transport for London is looking at reallocating space on the major roads it controls to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians.
He also said that discussions were taking place with London boroughs to close some residential streets to rat-running traffic.
Away from the capital, Brighton & Hove City Council has closed the seafront road, Madeira Drive, to motor vehicles to allow people to exercise safely while undertaking social distancing.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.