Re-allocating road space to make walking and cycling safer

Supporting local authorities during Covid-19 and beyond

Walking and cycling is an important part of UK resilience against the Covid-19 coronavirus.

It can be compatible with social distancing, as long as people stay at least two meters apart.

Social distancing advice, however, highlights the lack of safe space in some areas to allow people to make essential trips and exercise in the safest possible way.

Implement measures during lockdown to make essential trips safe

There are a number of measures that local authorities can put in place quickly and cheaply.

They can help people make essential trips while staying healthy and active under ever-changing circumstances.

And these measures will also help support local businesses and last-mile deliveries.

Any new measures implemented now should also aim to deliver long-term change after lockdown, addressing congestion, air pollution, social inequalities and the global climate crisis.

How Sustrans can support you

At Sustrans we want to support local authorities to adapt streets, roads and places during the Covid-19 crisis and as we emerge from it.

This page provides examples of measures that local authorities can implement, what powers they have to do so and how we can help.

Examples of measures from across the world 


Berlin has added temporary bike lanes, directly replacing car lanes. 


Budapest is rolling out a network of temporary bike lanes in the city centre. 


Vancouver has turned well-trafficked roads into one way streets, setting aside a temporary extra lane for walking and cycling. Calgary has taken a similar approach. 

Winnipeg has fully closed several central and suburban streets to through traffic with cones, signs and bollards. 


Oakland closed 74 miles of its streets to passing cars and opened them up to pedestrians and people on cycles.


Mexico City started an “emergency bike lane” network.


Bogota opened 47 miles of temporary bike lanes to reduce crowding on public transport and help prevent the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19), as well as to improve air quality.

Powers that local authorities have

Local Authorities in England

The UK Government updated its guidance to local authorities in England on 9 May, In addition to providing £250m for local authorities to use immediately in road space reallocation such as pop-up cycle lanes, pavement widening and bus and cycle corridors.

The Secretary of State recognised that it is a "once in a generation opportunity to deliver a lasting transformative change in how we make short journeys in our towns and cities".

Their website clarifies that measures can be introduced temporarily, either in isolation or as a combined package of measures.

Some interventions, including new lightly-segregated cycle lanes, will not require Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs). Others will require TROs, of which there are different types.

The main ones are:

1. Permanent

This process includes prior consultation on the proposed scheme design, a 21-day notice period for statutory consultees and others who can log objections; there can be a public inquiry in some circumstances.

2. Experimental

These are used to trial schemes that may then be made permanent.

Authorities may put in place monitoring arrangements, and carry out ongoing consultation once the measure is built.

Although the initial implementation period can be quick, the need for extra monitoring and consultation afterwards makes them a more onerous process overall.

3. Temporary

These can be in place for up to 18 months. There is a 7-day notice period prior to making the TRO and a 14-day notification requirement after it is made, plus publicity requirements.

These are most suitable for putting in place temporary measures and road closures.


The department’s temporary guidance on making TROs should be consulted for help in making orders during the COVID-19 crisis.

Authorities should monitor and evaluate any temporary measures they install, with a view to making them permanent, and embedding a long-term shift to active travel as we move from restart to recovery.

The public sector equality duty still applies. And in making any changes to their road networks, authorities must consider the needs of disabled people and those with other protected characteristics.

Accessibility requirements apply to temporary measures as they do to permanent ones.


Local Authorities in Wales

Local authorities in Wales have until 21 May to put forward initial expressions of interest for funding to introduce temporary measures to improve the safety and conditions for walking and cycling in their area.

There are two main reasons for this call to action:

  1. to protect public health and safety
  2. to address potential increases in car-use. 

The funding is available for ‘pop-up’ measures that enable social distancing.

These can include schemes, such as footway widening, temporary cycle lanes, speed restrictions, and bus infrastructure improvements enabling social distancing.

Measures aimed at improving walking and cycling should prioritise routes that are part of existing or planned active travel route networks, in particular routes to schools.

A package approach combining different measures is likely to be most effective.

Most measures are expected to be introduced on a temporary or experimental basis. However, where they are effective, should be introduced on a permanent basis.


Local Authorities in Scotland

The Scottish Government issued Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance on Temporary Traffic Regulation Orders and Notices to reduce transmission of coronavirus (COVID 19).

It has been produced in response to requests from local authorities regarding ongoing physical distancing measure. And the potential need to close roads to traffic or reallocate road space in favour of pedestrians and cyclists allowing for physical distancing measures.

Traffic authorities may make temporary traffic regulation orders (TTROs) covering their roads for a number of reasons for up to 18 months.

TROs require no prior consultation and are relatively flexible so there is the potential for local authorities to assess and put in place temporary measures relatively quickly and responsively.

Traffic authorities may make Temporary Traffic Regulation Notices (TTRNs) for the same reasons they may make TTROs but where they consider it necessary or expedient that the measures should come into force without delay.

TTRNs for reason of danger to the public can last for up to 21 days if necessary and can be renewed.

Read about the Spaces for People programme in Scotland which offers funding and support for councils to make it safer for people to walk, cycle or wheel for essential trips and exercise during Covid-19.


Local Authorities in Northern Ireland

The Department of Infrastructure (DFI) has responsibility for primary legislation in relation to roads matters as part of their wider role within DfI Roads for transport policy, strategy and legislation.

DFI also has a key responsibility for sustainable transport policies, primarily focused on cycling and walking in Northern Ireland.

What Sustrans recommends

We recommend following these three principles.

1. Prioritise space for essential activity

Prioritise space for activities, such as essential trips (work and the shops). And focus on making it safe and easy for people to exercise in their own neighbourhood.

2. Get an agreement in place

Establish an in-principle agreement between high-level representatives of public health, justice (police) and transport, with specific changes devolved to relevant local authority teams.

3. Use your trial for long-term plans  

Integrate trial measures (modal filters, protected bike lanes, wider pavements, widened crossing points, green man on default) into longer-term plans in order to protect key activities when traffic levels are higher.

How we can help you

We have teams of:

  • skilled engineers
  • partnerships experts
  • community engagement professionals
  • behaviour change specialists
  • research and monitoring experts.

And they can all help local authorities innovate and respond to the new circumstances and ensure that public spaces are safe, healthy and inclusive for all. 

Examples of the support we can provide include

We can develop and deliver collaborative engagement approaches. We use online tools and resources to understand where people have concerns, communicate potential measures, and develop solutions.

And we can design and deliver infrastructure to create more space for walking and cycling on our streets. This includes monitoring and evaluation of different approaches.

We'll provide support on the best behaviour change interventions as lockdown eases and there is the potential for people to establish new mobility patterns.

Want to find out more? Email your Sustrans regional or national team.