Government and local councils are coming under increasing pressure from cyclists for safer roads. Calling on them to make temporary changes to our road networks, to allow more space for cyclists and pedestrians throughout the Covid-19 social distancing restrictions.
How we use our road and pavement networks has changed dramatically throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Less cars are on the roads as people are encouraged to stay at home. In London, traffic has dropped by 63% on main roads. More people are taking advantage of cycling and walking as part of the daily exercise allowance outside their homes. More keyworkers are taking advantage of quieter roads to cycle to work. Pedestrians are stepping into the road to give more space to other passing pedestrians. However, some drivers are taking advantage of the empty roads and driving to excessive speeds. Speeding offences have doubled with some drivers being clocked at over 150 miles per hour.
This dangerous combination is creating a calling for temporary changes to allow for the increase in pedestrians and cyclist and encourage motorists to slow down. The sensible option is to allocate cyclists more space on the roads.
People are looking at measures that other countries have put in place to enable safer cycling whilst there is less traffic on the roads during social distancing or lockdown.
In America; Philadelphia officials closed 4.7 miles of Martin Luther King Jr Drive to motor traffic as leisure trails became overwhelmed by residents seeking their daily exercise. Minneapolis has closed part of its riverfront parkways to motor vehicles. Denver has introduced pop-up cycling and walking lanes. Oakland officials are planning to close 10% of the city’s total roads to motor vehicles.
In Canada, Stanley Park is now only open to cycling and pedestrians. Four streets in Winnipeg are restricted to cycling and walking throughout the day. Calgary traffic lanes have been reallocated to cycling.
In Budapest due to a drop by almost 90% of bus use and 50% decrease, city officials are planning a cycling network on main roads.
In Berlin, they have created temporary wide bike lanes in place of some motor vehicle lanes. In Bogota they are using temporary cones which can be placed to create emergency bike lanes based on usage.
The UK, however, has been slightly slower to adapt. Will Norman, walking and cycling commissioner says that emergency bike routes on London’s arterial roads would not protect cyclists without complex junction improvements, which would require construction workers to travel during lockdown.
Whilst we respect the importance of protecting construction workers, it feels such a shame to miss out on the opportunity to encourage more people to get on their bikes and build their cycling confidence whilst the roads are quieter.
As we marked World Earth Day earlier this week, it feels relevant to also look at how the nationwide shutdown has led to a big drop in air pollution across major cities. The Guardian reported last month that some scientists suggested that the number of early deaths avoided due to cleaner air might outnumber the deaths from coronavirus.
Hackney Council in east London has planned temporary filters using bollards and planters to prevent rat running while maintaining access for emergency vehicles and residents. Councillor Jon Burke told the Guardian; “We are running around making sure vulnerable people have enough food, but we aren’t doing something about the 40,000 people that are dying each year because of air pollution. We haven’t got weeks to deliver it, we need to deliver it now, because this crisis is happening now.”
Pryers are based in York, which although has a strong cycling community and has a number of cycling lanes and routes, it is unfortunately a little outdated so doesn’t always maximise safe cycling across the city. Being a historic city, it is prone to pinch points, affecting traffic flow. There are certainly traffic flow and cycling prioritisation measures that could be adopted to enable safer cycling. We support York Cycle Campaign who are calling on York City Council to make temporary measures across the city during Covid-19 to prioritise cycling, urging for creativity on how we adapt our roads to the current demands. If you would like to support this campaign please sign their petition now.