Cycling UK is urging people to ask their councils to create wider footpaths and temporary cycle lanes in response to the coronavirus pandemic. “Social distancing is likely to be the ‘new normal’ for quite some time, and that means people need more space to keep safe,” said the charity’s head of campaigns, Duncan Dollimore.
Councils in Brighton, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Glasgow have recently installed measures to make cycling and walking safer and Cycling UK has written to other councils in England, Scotland and Wales, urging them to follow suit.
The charity has produced a guide on how wider footpaths and temporary cycle lanes can be created quickly and cost-effectively.
It has also set up a simple online tool for people who want to see improved facilities for social distancing in their neighbourhood, allowing them to easily contact their council leaders and local councillor.
Do you want more #SpaceForDistancing in your local area?🚴♂️↔️🚶♀️
Cities around the world have been reallocating street space for safe cycling and walking. The UK must do the same.
Take action! Write to your council: https://t.co/yJ9GLpghHv
— Cycling UK (@WeAreCyclingUK) April 23, 2020
“A small number of councils are leading the way across Britain, by being proactive in their measures against Covid-19,” said Dollimore.
“Introducing measures to make cycling and walking safer and social distancing easier is essential not just for right now, but also for the future when lockdown restrictions are relaxed.
“The reality is the rollout of a vaccine, when it is found, is likely to take time but we will still need to get about. Social distancing is likely to be the ‘new normal’ for quite some time – and that means people need more space to keep safe.
“Cycling UK’s guide will help councils be proactive in keeping people safe in a cost- and resource-efficient manner.”
Dr Rachel Lee, policy and research manager at Living Streets added: “This pandemic is making us all realise how much public space is given over to individual car use rather than walking and cycling. Filtered neighbourhoods, banning cars from certain roads and tackling pavement parking can all help make our daily exercise easier and safer.
“Towns and cities worldwide are starting to reallocate road space so people can carry out their daily exercise at a safe distance from others and free from road danger. Now we can start to follow their lead."
However, on Wednesday's live blog Hackney councillor Jon Burke claimed the government have failed to remove red tape preventing councils from introducing many temporary measures.
Responding to a BBC article suggesting that barriers to imposing car-free streets were being lifted, Burke tweeted: “Untrue. The Government, Grant Shapps, and the Department for Transport (DfT) want the public to think that road closures aren't happening because of councils. We have no more powers to deliver safer, healthier streets than we did last week, and they were precious few.
"I'm both embarrassed and apologetic that I've had Hackney Council officers waste precious time exploring this when the DfT is clearly gaslighting us. We live in a completely car-dominated society and are led by a Government that wants to keep it that way. Absolutely infuriating.
"This in no way diminishes Hackney Council's desire to humanise our streets and reallocate road space for the benefit of all, but it does mean the Gov't won't let us implement temporary filters to improve road safety and social distancing during a public health and speeding crisis."
Burke has since written to Shapps requesting clarification of the powers available to local authorities for the introduction of emergency road safety measures.