Many boroughs responded to the challenges set in motion by the coronavirus pandemic by introducing emergency measures to support people who need to walk or cycle for essential journeys. These new measures have continued and expanded to meet the positive demand from more people for alternative travel options.
London boroughs now see a golden opportunity to encourage more people to walk and cycle to sustain the benefits of a cleaner and less congested city post-lockdown. As a result, boroughs are continuing to improve local high streets and public spaces to make them easier and safer for walkers and cyclists to navigate while maintaining social distancing. This will also help to manage pressure on public transport networks.
According to a London Councils and LEDNet survey, many boroughs are making proactive changes to local roads, paths, high streets and open spaces by introducing measures such as wider pavements, pop-up bike lanes and cycle and bus-only corridors.
Other ways boroughs are innovating to repurpose public space include:
• Introducing ‘low traffic streets’ in Croydon that reduce traffic and help to keep people fit and healthy
• Widening pavements so there is more space for pedestrians to walk safely in Lambeth
• Portobello Road in Kensington and Chelsea, which hosts the famous Portobello market, will be closed to cars during trade hours to keep streets safe for the public post lockdown
• Camden have made a series of safety-based changes by restricting traffic on residential streets
• The pedestrianisation of Old York Road in Wandsworth by diverting buses and only allowing limited local access to support more walking and cycling. This scheme also supports local businesses as they will have the opportunity to utilise the public highway for tables and chairs
All London boroughs have now received funding from TfL’s Streetspace for London scheme and DfT’s Emergency Active Travel Fund, which will support the introduction of low traffic neighbourhoods, school streets, more space for walking and cycling in town centres and strategic cycle routes across the capital.
Cllr Claire Holland, Chair of London Councils’ Transport and Environment Committee says:
“London boroughs have been at the forefront of taking action to make our streets safer and protect our communities in response to the challenges coronavirus has posed.
“Now travel restrictions are easing, boroughs are repurposing roads and public spaces to protect people who are walking and cycling more to ensure they can continue to do so safely into the future.
“It is more important than ever for walking and cycling to be seen as a safe and attractive option to complete journeys, not just a necessary one. If more people choose to drive in London, we will return to seeing heavy traffic on our roads and toxic air pollution will build up once more.
“London’s environmental future depends on people making greener travel choices. By listening to Londoners and making it easier for individuals who can and want to make journeys via walking and cycling to do so, we can pursue a green recovery that will help tackle the climate emergency.”
Last month, a poll by Centre for London, funded by London Environment Directors’ Network (LEDNet) has shown that the majority of Londoners support permanent pavement widening and the provision of new cycle lanes or wider cycle lanes. Around a third of Londoners also said they will cycle more after lockdown, with 46% stating they will increase walking, running and cycling altogether.