City plans to promote cycling and walking to be supported by £2bn Government investment

Sat 09 May 2020 View all news

The Government has announced that it will invest £2 billion in schemes to promote cycling and walking in an attempt to reduce crowding and infection risk on public transport and cut congestion on the roads. New guidance will tell local authorities to reallocate road space for significantly increased numbers of cyclists and pedestrians. Meanwhile authorities in London have announced plans for areas of the city to be made car free after the lockdown is over.  

In what the Government says is the largest ever boost for cyclists and pedestrians, emergency bike lanes will be introduced an trials of rental e-scooters will be brought forward to increase greener transport options.

Pop-up bike lanes with protected space for cycling, wider pavements, safer junctions, and cycle and bus-only corridors will be created in England within weeks as part of a £250 million emergency active travel fund - the first stage of a £2 billion investment; all a part of £5 billion in new funding announced for cycling and buses in February.

The Government hopes that the plans will help encourage more people to choose alternatives to public transport and individual car use when they need to travel. It will fund and work with local authorities across England to help make it easier for people to use bikes to get around - including Greater Manchester, which wants to create 150 miles of protected cycle track, and Transport for London, which plans a “bike Tube” network above Underground lines.

Fast-tracked statutory guidance, published alongside the funding announcement and effective immediately, will tell councils to reallocate roadspace for significantly-increased numbers of cyclists and pedestrians. The Government says that in towns and cities, some streets could become bike and bus-only while others remain available for motorists. More side streets could be closed to through traffic, to create low-traffic neighbourhoods and reduce rat-running while maintaining access for vehicles.

E-scooter trials will also be brought forward from next year to next month. Originally set to take place in four Future Transport Zones, the trials of rental e-scooters – which will now be offered to all local areas across the country – will allow government to assess the benefits of e-scooters as well as their impact on public space, with the potential to see rental vehicles on UK roads as early as June.

The Government says that an updated Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy will be launched by the Prime Minister in the summer, with further measures to transform cycling and walking to deliver the Government’s aims to double cycling and increase walking by 2025.

Meanwhile, the Mayor of London has announced that large areas of London are to be closed to cars and vans to allow people to walk and cycle safely as the coronavirus lockdown is eased.

The Guardian reports that in one of the biggest car-free initiatives of any city in the world, the Mayor announced that main streets between between London Bridge and Shoreditch, Euston and Waterloo, and Old Street and Holborn, will be limited to buses, pedestrians and cyclists.

A recent poll found that the majority of the British public support proposals for weekly car-free days in town and city centres.

A YouGov poll of nearly 1,700 adults across the UK (7-11 May) commissioned by climate charity Possible revealed that 54 per cent of respondents support the closure of town and city centres to non-essential vehicles once a week in order to open up space for pedestrians and cyclists.

According to a report by Business Green, support for active travel measures is building as the UK's lockdown restrictions ease. A coalition of nine NGOs published an open letter to the Transport Secretary, Environment Secretary, Chancellor, leaders of local and regional authorities, and city mayors calling for a "street revolution to stop air pollution bounce-back" as lockdown measures lifted.

The group - which includes Greenpeace UK, Living Streets, Cycling UK, Transport & Environment, and CPRE - is calling for at least £6bn in funding over the next five years and for a transformation of the UK's streets to deliver cycle lanes on all main roads and the creation of pedestrianised 'Mini-Hollands' in all towns and cities.

Related news: Brussels-based NGO, T&E has published a four-part plan to keep cities pollution-free after the lockdown lifts. The op-ed which has been published in five languages says that as authorities across Europe prepare to ease restrictions imposed in response to the pandemic, "they’re facing a make-or-break moment for urban mobility. The decisions taken in the coming weeks will define how healthy, resilient and liveable our cities will be in the future".

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