In May 2020, the Transport Minister, Grant Shapps, announced £250 million for an emergency active travel fund (the first stage of a £2 billion investment).
Pop-up bike lanes with protected space for cycling, wider pavements to allow social distancing, safer junctions, and cycle and bus-only corridors were promised across England.
The plans are to help encourage more people to choose alternatives to public transport and private vehicles when they need to travel, making healthier habits easier and helping make sure the road, bus and rail networks are ready to respond to future increases in demand.
With public transport capacity severely limited due to the coronavirus crisis, the Government fears that without large numbers switching to active travel, towns and cities’ roads will grind to a halt.
Fast-tracked statutory guidance, was re-published and effective immediately, essentially forcing councils to reallocate roadspace for significantly-increased numbers of cyclists and pedestrians. In practice this means some streets could become bike and bus-only and some side streets could be closed to through traffic, to create low-traffic neighbourhoods and reduce rat-running while maintaining access.
What is going on elsewhere?
Anyone who has been into Central London in recent weeks will have noticed some dramatic changes, with widened pavements in areas of high footfall (Covent Garden for example) and a huge increase in segregated cycleways (using ‘wands’ as barriers to enable the work to be done quickly).
According to the Mayor of London:
“We’ve now approved 3 rounds of funding for my #SteetspaceLDN plan to keep our roads free from congestion, supporting 508 projects worth £22m across 24 boroughs:
- 114 low traffic neighbourhoods
- 154 school streets
- 202 town centre changes
- 38 strategic cycling schemes”
From our more local boroughs:
Lambeth has committed to extensive improvements across the borough, with seven low traffic neighbourhoods already in place and a further five planned. They have also implemented pavement widening in many places. Lambeth was allocated the most funding of all boroughs because of their visionary plans.
Lewisham also have some strong plans in place to support the Streetspace scheme.
The first phase of measures began in June, with suspending parking and loading bays on seven borough roads. Along with this, modal filters have been placed in six streets.
Southwark have committed to phased improvements to three cycleways, low traffic neighbourhoods/ modal filters on six roads, school streets for at least three schools and pedestrian improvements in at least 9 locations.
Unfortunately, Bromley have been somewhat slow to act, missing out on the initial funding round because their plans were not bold enough. More recently they have been allocated an initial fund for one school street and two strategic cycle routes.