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Greens welcome cycle lane expansion and call for city-wide changes to support ‘social distancing

Greens welcome cycle lane expansion and call for city-wide changes to support ‘social distancing’, as well as road safety and emissions reduction, following potential Government announcement on relaxed lockdown

Concerns were that proposed easing of lockdown restrictions could increase car traffic and make it harder for residents to stay 2m apart.

Traffic restrictions and measures to support pedestrians and cyclists should be urgently put in place in high-footfall areas of the city, Greens have warned today, following news that the Government could be poised to relax some lockdown restrictions on outdoor activities next week.

At a recent committee meeting (Policy and Resources Committee, 1st May) Greens successfully pushed the Labour Council to revise their spending plans for transport and roads, calling for greater efforts to be made to widen pavements, bring forward road closures, improve cycle lanes and create space for joggers and walkers.

Welcoming news that plans are already in place to extend the cycle lane along Old Shoreham Road, Greens have called on the council to urgently address ‘pinch points’ for space in the city, arguing that a return to ‘normal’ levels of car traffic will have immediate negative impacts for many.

Suggestions that the ‘stay at home’ message is expected to be scrapped by Government next week has raised fears that a potential increase traffic and footfall will make it difficult for residents to maintain ‘social distancing.’

Urging the Labour Council to bring forward solutions as soon as possible, particular concern has been raised for traders and small businesses with street shop-front entrances in the city, who will need space to ensure customers can maintain a safe distance.

Greens say many potential changes could be brought in quickly as they would not normally require longer procedures such a ‘traffic regulation orders’ to be enacted, pointing to changes in Leicester and Lambeth where new cycle ‘expressways’ and pavement widening measures were brought in straight away. Measures could include:

  • ‘keyworker corridors’ for essential staff to make swift and safe journeys by bike and on foot, as demonstrated in Leicester; to support measures to keep road traffic down and also improve bus journeys;
  • enhanced traffic restrictions and pedestrianisation, to support the customers and staff of small businesses and traders to maintain safe distance;
  • widening narrow pavements and enhancing space particularly along the seafront dual carriageway;
  • considering how extra space can be facilitated for those taking daily exercise such as joggers, including exploring the option of dedicated jogging lanes;
  • marshalling or stewarding of certain high-footfall areas, where safe, to help ensure smooth and safe flows of car traffic
  • road closures to traffic where necessary, as already evidenced in Madeira Drive; steps that are being taken by an increasing number of councils

Referring again to the council’s commitment to lower toxic emissions by 2030 Greens say the council must not fail to bring forward transport improvements now, in order to guarantee residents can enjoy cleaner air, safer roads and more space for cycling, exercising and walking in the future.

Green Councillor Pete West, opposition spokesperson for Environment, Transport and Sustainability, commented:

“Social distancing will be with us for a long time to come, and public transport use is likely to remain low.  There is a real risk we will see a rapid rise in car use over the coming weeks as society and business unlock. So it is imperative that the council acts urgently to support those discovering and enjoying cycling and walking before they driven off the roads by traffic. We need to see bold and ambitious plans for a rapid roll out of new cycle lanes like on Old Shoreham Road.

“For small businesses reopening in narrow streets more space will be needed for queuing and safe movement of pedestrians. As part of this, it’s key that we explore how car traffic can be limited, for example to give resident access only. To reduce toxic emissions, support healthy active lives and businesses under the reality of living and working with covid19, this is the moment to deliver on commitments to explore a car free city centre, and to explore how mechanisms used elsewhere, such as congestion charging or other private car access limitations, can assist all of our residents and businesses at this time and into the future.”  

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