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Major NHS Trust boss backs council’s plans for walking and cycling

Head of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust offers Lambeth support in implementing its plans

The head of one of the country’s largest NHS Foundation Trusts, which runs two of London’s most renowned teaching hospitals, has offered to help the London Borough of Lambeth develop “a strategic walking and cycling network” to help people continue to travel by bike or foot as lockdown eases.

Dr Ian Abbs, chief executive and chief medical officer of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, also warned that “Without action in the UK, we risk private cars becoming the default mode of socially distanced transport.”

A copy of his letter, addressed to Councillor Claire Holland, deputy leader of Lambeth Council with responsibility for sustainable transport, environment and clean air, was posted to Twitter earlier today by the Save Oval Streets campaign group.

Last month, the council was awarded £2.6 million in emergency funding by Transport for London, part of which has already been used to implement low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) at Oval Triangle in Kennington and around Railton Road, Brixton.

Other LTNs and cycling- and walking-friendly Healthy Streets routes are also planned elsewhere in the borough, which is home to St Thomas’ Hospital, with Guy’s Hospital located in neighbouring Southwark.

“We employ over 17,000 staff members who travel through most London boroughs, including Lambeth,” Dr Abbs wrote. “During the coronavirus crisis, our staff have shown an increased interest in cycling and walking as a way of reducing their risk of transmission during their commute to work.

“The evidence from Wuhan shows that private car use almost doubled after lockdown. Without action in the UK, we risk private cars becoming the default mode of socially distanced transport. Our Prime Minister has encouraged people to commute on foot or by bike to help avoid a dramatic increase in cars on roads, after lockdown.

“Indeed, our staff should continue to cycle and walk to work, as this supports their physical and psychological wellbeing, and will help to maintain the improved air quality we have experienced around our sites during the pandemic.”

He continued: “We welcome the Lambeth Transport Strategy Plan 2019 and your most recent Covid 19: Transport Strategy Programme. We would like to work collaboratively with Lambeth Council to rapidly develop and implement an Emergency Transport Action Response Plan for the Borough, ahead of lockdown easing, to enable our staff to choose sustainable and safe modes of transport.”

Dr Abbs urged the council to consider, in drawing up its strategic cycling and walking network:

Re-purposing traffic lanes and parking spaces for temporary cycle lanes, and widening footways to enable social distancing for walkers;

Closing residential streets to through traffic and implementing low traffic neighbourhoods, to ensure everyone has access to safe street space to walk, scoot, cycle, and use wheelchairs, without the dangers of heavy traffic.

He added: “We very much hope these initiatives will be implemented in your Borough without delay and look forward to working with you.”

Announcing the council’s plans in May, Councillor Holland said: “With more than half of Lambeth’s residents not owning a vehicle and many people likely to be fearful of using public transport, it is an absolute priority that we ensure our streets and neighbourhoods are safe so that residents feel able to choose safe and accessible alternatives

“Our plan will keep Lambeth moving, reduce the risk of road danger due to excess speeding and reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, all whilst having additional benefits of cleaning up our air, reducing carbon emissions and creating healthier neighbourhoods for our communities. We cannot replace one health crisis with another.”

Besides the Oval Triangle and Railton Road LTNs, , which are aimed at removing rat-running traffic, others are planned for locations including Ferndale, Streatham Hill, Streatham Wells, Brixton Hill, Tulse Hill and potentially five more locations across the borough.

Healthy Routes, meanwhile, are planned for Loughborough Road, Kennington Road, Barrington Road, Atlantic Road, Coldharbour Lane and Brixton Water Lane and the Streatham to Peckham cycleway as well as improvements to Cycleway 5.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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