From road closures in Weston-super-Mare to ‘Health highways’ on the Wirral to pop-up cycle lanes in York and Cardiff, emergency cycle infrastructure has already been created up and down the country. How is it being received?
Cycling UK reports that at least 40 councils across the country have made changes to roads during lockdown with over 10,000 people having supported the charity’s campaign by writing to their local authority calling for similar measures.
(You can use the Widen My Path tool to show your local council where you feel something is needed.)
UK motor traffic fell to its lowest level for 65 years at the start of lockdown, with travel on the nation’s roads plummeting to levels not seen since 1955. This encouraged many to take to their bikes during this period.
Speaking at the start of last month, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that the level of weekday cycling had doubled in Great Britain since the introduction of lockdown in late March, with even stronger growth at weekends.
However, with motor traffic levels rising significantly in recent weeks, the question is how much of this will stick.
The BBC provides as one example Jude Duncan from Leicester, a 57-year-old who bought a second-hand bike at the start of lockdown.
Having not cycled before, Duncan now commutes to work by bike and also rides at the weekends. She says the city’s pop-up lanes have been "a godsend".
"I wouldn't go on the roads if they weren't there. If you're being encouraged to ride a bike, then you have to be able to do it safely."
Speaking at the launch of a new pop-up lane on Hinckley Road last week, Leicester deputy city mayor for environment and transportation, Councillor Adam Clarke, said: “We’ve seen how popular these pop-up cycle track schemes have been and it makes sense to continue installing them on major commuter routes in and out of the city.”
Chris Boardman, the walking and cycling commissioner for Greater Manchester, has said that these sorts of schemes are a chance to set the transport agenda for decades to come, but with more and more cars back on the roads, local authorities are beginning to face greater tensions when attempting to implement such schemes.
Recently we’ve reported on a stretch of pop-up bike lane that was put in on the A56 in South Manchester but removed by Trafford Council following complaints from drivers, while in Filton in Gloucestershire a pop-up cycle lane was scrapped after just five days following complaints it caused traffic jams.
In an even more striking example of drivers’ resistance to change, Lewisham had to stick a bollard in after drivers mounted the pavement to get round planters put in to block a road to motor traffic.
Meanwhile, a new bike lane in Toxteth was branded a “pop-up car park” because of the way drivers were using it. (Double yellow lines have now been added, albeit to minimal effect going by yesterday’s live blog.)
Even within Boardman’s region, Manchester Council’s Executive Member for Environment, Planning and Transport, Angeliki Stogia, has spoken out against pop-up cycle lanes, arguing that if the council were to “take out capacity on major routes” by constructing pop-up lanes, it would result in greater congestion.
Similar comments have been made by Royston Smith, the Conservative MP for Southampton Itchen, who complained that the City Council was exacerbating congestion by “taking out lanes”.
However, despite the easing of lockdown, it is in many ways still early days for pop-up infrastructure with the Government having only allocated its first tranche of Emergency Active Travel funding earlier this week.
The Government fears that without large numbers switching to active travel, towns and cities’ roads will grind to a halt. It was therefore striking that a message appeared to be sent.
While some authorities who made strong bids had actually been given more money than they requested, others will receive only 75%, 50% or 25%.
In a letter to councils, the Department for Transport pointedly urged councils to show “an even higher level of ambition” when it came to proposals for emergency active travel measures ahead of the next tranche of funding.
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