Next Steps: Cycling and Active Travel in response to COVID-19

By | May 15, 2020

Following the Secretary of State for Transport’s announcement on Saturday about the need to reallocate road space to allow for increased cycling and walking following the coronavirus outbreak, Bradford Cycling Campaign initiated two Zoom meetings with partners who have worked together through B-Spoke, the Bradford cycle forum with Bradford Council. These notes reflect the main outcomes of those discussions at this unprecedented time.

The statement and guidance are at https://bit.ly/2WT49ct.

Government guidance

The government announcement represents a dramatic shift in approach to planning for active travel, in both scope and pace of implementation. The Secretary of State writes: “We recognise this moment for what 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.”

The government now expects local authorities ‘to make significant changes to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians’, to ‘reallocate road space to people walking and cycling’ and that these measures should be undertaken ‘as swiftly as possible, and in any event within weeks’. Notably, this includes, where appropriate, taking road-space away from motor vehicles in favour of cycling and walking.

Specific examples described in the guidance include introducing mandatory cycle lanes using ‘popup’ markers such as wands; suspending parking bays to turn them into temporary cycle lanes; such cycle lanes should be ‘segregated’ with physical barriers, initially temporary, rather than relying only on road markings, which ‘are very unlikely to be sufficient to deliver the level of change needed’. Other examples include ‘closing roads to motor traffic, for example by using planters or large barriers’ as have been used since the Covid-19 outbreak in some UK cities such as London.

Hence, it is necessary to go much further and faster than local authorities have been able, or willing, to do in the past.

Bradford response

We urge Bradford Council to take full advantage of the new opportunities presented by the Government, much of which of course is consistent with the Council’s cycling strategy and those around climate change, air quality and healthy living. Encouraging more cycling and walking, aside from the need for space for ‘social distancing’, is a logical and inevitably beneficial longer term response. Bradford Cycling Campaign and other organisations and individuals are keen to support the Council in whatever ways it can.

We believe that the welcome plans already announced by Bradford Council can be rapidly expanded with, initially, the use of simple cones to segregate cycle lanes followed by bolt-down infrastructure (wands, rhino barriers etc.) coupled with clear signage of facilities. Publicity explaining the rationale behind the reallocation of space – as instructed by government and replicated elsewhere – would help motorists understand the benefits.

Specific measures

Specific measures that, we believe, could be implemented immediately include:

  • Make all bus lanes in the District permanent and therefore lower traffic lanes without parked cars.
  • Temporary or widened cycle lanes along the length of Manningham Lane to Shipley and from Shipley to Bingley and Beckfoot school.
  • Converting parking bays on Great Horton Road and Thornton Road to cycle lanes as radial ‘whole route’ commuter corridors.
  • Enacting the government guidance on ‘school streets’, where motor traffic is restricted at pick-up and drop-off times.
  • Segregation/barriers on routes to and around BRI and Airedale Hospital.
  • Promotion of and financial support for existing bike loan schemes (Capital of Cycling, BeCycling, MCF etc.).
  • Use of barriers or planters to close side streets and back streets where these might form rat runs or conflict with new cycle lanes.

In the medium term, we would encourage:

  • Development of a Bradford bike hire scheme, including electric bikes.
  • Reinforcement of the campaign to protect and open Queensbury Tunnel.
  • Development of an adult cycle training scheme.
  • Completion of resurfacing works on canal towpaths.
  • Completion of Shipley links at the end of Canal Greenway.
  • The reinstatement of B-Spoke, the Bradford cycle forum, supported by the Council.

These are unprecedented times, with a growing public and political consensus that, as the pandemic recedes, we won’t be going ‘back to normal’. As the Secretary of State says, this is a once in a generation opportunity to change the way we travel in our urban centres. Bradford Cycling Campaign and B-Spoke partners hope that many of these ‘temporary’ measures will lead to permanent change – in effect, to implementation of the Bradford cycling strategy. We will support all efforts that Bradford Council make towards that goal.

Bradford Cycling Campaign www.bradfordcc.org

Clean Air Bradford www.cleanairbradford.uk

Baildon Friends of the Earth www.friendsoftheearth.uk/groups/baildon

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