Published: 13th MAY 2020

Unlocking our streets and giving us space to move safely

Our Director of Insight, Dr Andy Cope, takes a look at the role that walking and cycling are playing during the COVID-19 lockdown. With local authorities already making changes to make it safer for us to move around, we're now seeing an increased urgency for investment in better cycling and walking infrastructure. Andy explores how we can learn from the important part that walking and cycling are playing in our urban resilience amidst the pandemic and beyond.

Over recent weeks, the challenges of Covid-19 have spelled out the fragility of some of the systems of our current lifestyle.

The crisis has also served to highlight some of the things we really value – family and loved ones, our community, personal wellbeing, and green spaces to name just a few.

Walking and cycling is an important part of urban resilience

We have seen the role that walking and cycling have played in enabling keyworkers to get to their workplaces, in providing access to green space, and in supporting delivery systems.

And the benefits of reduced traffic, and the possibilities of a greater shift to more sustainable travel modes, have been very clear.

Of course, when levels of motor traffic are lower, people feel much more confident to walk and cycle around their towns and cities.

The safer streets and cleaner air are two important factors in encouraging walking and cycling.

But the need for physical distancing is another factor – the less positive effect of deterring people from using public transport.

We need to make our streets safer

The combination of a need to make our streets safer for cycling and walking, and to enable physical distancing, have led to many calls for temporary changes to road layouts to support people to move safely.

We are now starting to see temporary schemes that reallocate road space to walking and cycling being implemented throughout the country.

The first announcement on major investment in road space reallocation schemes came from Scotland at the end of April. £10m to support ‘pop-up active travel infrastructure’.

Announcements quickly followed for Manchester, and for London.

And the UK Department for Transport has announced a package of investment of £250m for pop-up bike lanes, protected space for cycling, wider pavements, safer junctions, and cycle and bus-only corridors.

Plus vouchers for cycle repairs and greater provision for bike fixing facilities.

In fact, this is billed as the first phase of a £2bn investment in walking and cycling.

The urgency to invest in walking and cycling

The new urgency to invest in walking and cycling as part of the response to the pandemic has the potential to transform the way we move and the way we live.

Safe walking and cycling will have a key role to play in getting towns and cities moving safely at different stages of the lockdown, and beyond.

It is essential that we make these changes fast, but also that we get the changes right.

Space to move

We want to hear what you think of the changes to road layouts in your local area.

So we've launched an interactive map to gather people's thoughts on temporary, local street changes that support walking and cycling.

We need to understand changes to road layouts that have been made during this time, and how they might work as part of long-term plans to create healthier and pleasant streets for people.

This tool will be crucial in helping us to understand what changes to space will be needed in the coming months.

Take a look at the map and tell us what you think about the changes in your area.

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