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In the wake of objection to schemes which protect vulnerable road users, a YouGov survey has revealed that the majority of the public support safer roads for cycling and walking.

Safer Streets

When lockdown was enforced, the public were quick to ask for roads to be made safer for vulnerable road users.

Local councils were quick to make temporarily changes to protect vulnerable road users. We saw road closures, widening of cycle lanes and partitions to segregate vulnerable road users from motorised traffic. According to Sustrans, 89 local authorities have made 503 temporary changes.

The national government were quick to ride the upwelling of support. In May they announced the first stage of a £2 billion funding package “to create a new era for cycling and walking”. All part of a £5 billion scheme announced prior to the pandemic.

Why Encouraging Active Transport is more Important than Ever

There are many benefits to active transport:

  • A more active nation is healthier. This will in turn reduce the strain on the health service.
  • Less traffic means less congestion. This has obvious benefits for those who need to use motor vehicles. However, it also results in a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions which will help everyone’s health, and the environment.
  • Fewer people sharing confined spaces on public transport means a lower risk of virus transmission. Although this is particularly important as we emerge from the pandemic, there are long term benefits for things like flu.
  • Safer roads means less accidents. This will further reduce the strain on the health service.
  • Infrastructure development creates jobs, which will stimulate the economy.

What’s not to like?

Initial calls from the public to make streets safer have naturally regressed to their mean. They have been replaced by vocal residents and pro-motoring groups who are taking the opportunity to express their objections to some of the changes. This has resulted in some councils U-turning on their active travel initiatives.

Most notably was the three-week trial of a pop-up cycle lane in Surrey.  After only three days they abandoned the trial following pressure from local MP, Crispin Blunt. Ealing, Wandsworth, South Gloucestershire, Trafford and Portsmouth have reported similar U-Turns.

The Silent Majority

Funded by #BikeIsBest, YouGov have recently conducted a survey of 2,010 people to gauge the nation’s feeling about making streets safer for vulnerable road users. It revealed overwhelming support for measures that encourage cycling and walking in their local area. 6.5 people supported changes for every one who was against.

Additionally, 80% who expressed a preference wanted streets to be redesigned to protect cyclists and pedestrians from motor vehicles.

Dr Ian Walker, and Environmental Psychologist from the University of Bath said that the results of the survey suggest that “people have a tendency to misjudge public levels of support” which is “Perhaps one reason negative voices find it so easy to sway things their way”. He noted that “The survey showed that, while most people think Britain would be a better place if more people cycled, they also guessed that other people were less supportive, and more hostile, to the idea than they were.”

What you can do

Adam Tranter, #BikeIsBest spokesmen and Coventry’s cycling mayor said “If the silent majority want to see this new, greener, better Britain, they need to act now or face going back to the old normal, with polluted and dangerous streets.”

Residents of places with prominent figures that oppose safer roads for vulnerable road users risk being left behind. As the rest of the country use this opportunity to promote active transport – and reap the benefits associated with that (extra jobs, better health and reduced strain on the healthcare system) they might miss out – and who knows when this opportunity will return.

If you want safer roads it’s important to make sure your voice is heard. You can obviously do that by having discussions, online and in person. But #BikeIsBest also have a petition you can sign.

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