Joint call for more space for cycling during virus crisis
***UPDATED TUESDAY, 21 APRIL 2020***
Cycling UK has today (21 April) written to the Welsh Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport, Lee Waters AM, calling on the Welsh Government to support and facilitate local authorities' attempts to install temporary infrastructure during the coronavirus lockdown.
The national cycling charity joined forces with Dr Tom Porter (Consultant in Public Health Medicine, Healthy Travel Wales), Welsh Cycling, Sustrans Cymru, Brompton Bicycle, Pedal Power Cardiff and others to make this call.
The group recognised that Cardiff City Council was showing what is possible through its road reallocation programme in Roath Park Lake, and has called for similar projects across Wales.
Gwenda Owen, Cycling UK engagement officer in Wales, said:
“It’s encouraging to see the steps Cardiff council has taken to enable people to walk and cycle whilst maintaining social distancing. It’s a good start, but we need to do more throughout Wales, and quickly, to ensure that our key workers can get to work safely, and to enable people to walk and cycle as part their daily exercise.
"Cycling UK, together with organisations and health representatives across Wales, has today written to Lee Waters, Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport, asking the Welsh Government to support local authorities introducing temporary cycle lanes, restricting through traffic and taking immediate short-term steps to give people walking and cycling more space for social distancing.”
***EARLIER STATEMENT ISSUED FRIDAY, 17 APRIL 2020***
A number of towns and cities in countries around the world have already brought in temporary infrastructure to enable more people to walk and cycle safely, including in New Zealand, USA, Canada and Germany.
Cycling UK, along with Brompton Bicycle, British Cycling, London Cycling Campaign, the Bicycle Association, Sustrans, The Ramblers and the Director of Public Health, Barts Health NHS Trust, is asking for the same.
The letter to the cycling minister, Chris Heaton-Harris MP, points out that large swathes of road space are currently underused because fewer people are driving during the lockdown.
This is space that could easily be adapted to encourage more cycling and walking, especially for key workers who are increasingly travelling actively to avoid public transport and infection risks.
We have vast amounts of currently underused road space which can be temporarily reallocated at low cost.
Letter to English cycling minister, Chris Harris-Heaton MP
The letter says: “We have vast amounts of currently underused road space which can be temporarily reallocated at low cost.
“This is becoming increasingly essential as key workers choose cycling or walking to get to work, avoiding potential transmission via public transport.
“You will have also noticed a surge in people cycling and walking for exercise in line with the government’s public health recommendations; such measures improve conditions for these groups too.”
The Department for Transport this week issued a statement clarifying that local authorities do have the powers to do this under the Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders, but the co-signees want the Government to go further.
The letter adds: “Our organisations would, however, urge you to go further and provide a clear positive ministerial statement encouraging local highway authorities to consider implementing temporary initiatives of this kind.
“That would give local authorities the confidence to quickly implement measures, enabling safe cycling and walking within the Government’s social distancing guidelines.
“In discussion with NHS colleagues, we know that these measures would have a positive impact in encouraging more health workers to cycle to work and have the added benefit of providing safe segregation or protection from motor traffic.”
The letter concludes with an appeal to the minister to support cycle and walking spaces, not only for the immediate situation, but to mitigate against a second wave of the virus when people begin returning to work and avoid public transport.
“We feel it prudent to plan ahead and implement these temporary measures now for key workers but also to allow the wider population to travel by bicycle or by foot in the short term as lockdown restrictions lift,” the letter added.