London mayor Sadiq Khan has unveiled plans to build new cycle lanes – including on one of the city’s busiest roads – and improve pedestrian zones in busy areas for when coronavirus lockdown measures are eased.
Travel on buses, tubes and trains in London is a key area of concern when current rules – which have been in force since 23 March – are relaxed, sparking fears social distancing will remain impossible to enact and enforce.
To address these concerns, Khan has unveiled plans to build a temporary cycle lane on Euston Road, one of the capital’s busiest thoroughfares, among other measures.
Transport for London (TfL) recently warned the capital could “grind to a halt” if public transport use drops to an estimated fifth of usual capacity, when Londoners begin to return to their normal routines, jobs and daily lives.
On Wednesday, Khan and TfL announced the London Streetspace plan, an initiative to transform the capital’s streets with temporary cycle lanes and pedestrianised town centres to encourage “clean, green and sustainable travel at the heart of London’s recovery”.
The initiative will focus on three areas, including the expansion of London’s cycle network to free up space on tube and train lines, plus the reduction of traffic on residential streets, which would create safer conditions for an expected increase in cycling and walking.
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Thirdly, the plan proposes to “transform” local town centres by creating wider footways and paths on high streets, which would help facilitate queues outside shops and people walking past, without compromising on social distancing practices.
A statement on the City Hall website reads: “With London’s public transport capacity potentially running at a fifth of pre-crisis levels, millions of journeys a day will need to be made by other means.
“If people switch only a fraction of these journeys to cars, London risks grinding to a halt, air quality will worsen, and road danger will increase.”
In addition to Euston Road, Park Lane has also been earmarked for temporary cycle lanes to handle an increase in cycling traffic.
Various pavements have already been widened on Rye Lane and Walworth Road in Southwark, Chatsworth Road in Hackney, Loughborough Junction in Lambeth, King Street in Hammersmith and Croydon’s London Road.
Speaking of the proposed plan, Khan said: “The emergency measures included in our major strategic London Streetspace programme will help those who have to travel to work by fast-tracking the transformation of streets across our city.
“Many Londoners have rediscovered the joys of walking and cycling during lockdown and, by quickly and cheaply widening pavements, creating temporary cycle lanes and closing roads to through traffic we will enable millions more people to change the way they get around our city.
“I urge the government and boroughs to work with us to enable Londoners to switch to cleaner, more sustainable forms of transport – and reduce the pressure on other parts of our transport network – once the lockdown is eased.”
The UK is in its seventh week of social distancing restrictions after the government announced on 17 April that measures would be kept in place for “at least” another three weeks.
Legislation requires the government to review social distancing measures every 21 days, with the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, more commonly known as Sage, set to meet and discuss lockdown on Thursday.
Boris Johnson has promised to unveil the results of the government review on Sunday, with any changes to current restrictions expected to come into play the following day.