Council leaders in Manchester and Bradford have committed to creating enhanced space for pedestrians and people on bikes across their city-regions, to enable people to keep their distance for safe essential journeys and exercise during the coronavirus lockdown and beyond.
Brought together under the Safe Streets Save Lives campaign, local authorities in Greater Manchester are looking to prioritise a range of temporary, pop-up measures such as footway extensions, one-way streets, removing through traffic on certain roads, adding extra cycle lanes and removing street ‘clutter’ like pedestrian guard rails at pinch points.
The emergency changes will be matched to help ease social distancing at specific locations such as areas outside shops, transport hubs or routes to hospitals in the districts, with £5m of funding made available through the Mayor’s Cycling and Walking Challenge Fund.
Whilst there has been a dramatic fall in traffic volumes of about 60% across Greater Manchester, walking and cycling have played an increasingly important role. They now account for approximately 33% of all journeys, with cycling up 22% compared to pre-lockdown data. These trends have also led to congestion almost being eliminated and significant drop in pollution.
Greater Manchester was part way through a study with evidence showing that 93% of road users recognised side road Zebra markings that are currently used across the world. The Mayor Andy Burnham has written to the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, asking him to enable local highway authorities to implement these measures immediately.
Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “A number of cities around the world have begun implementing measures to enable safe essential travel and exercise during lockdown. As part of our efforts to Build Back Better in Greater Manchester, we’re taking the same, bold approach – Safe Streets really do Save Lives.
“Peoples’ travel behaviour across our city region has transformed during lockdown. As more people turn to walking and cycling, we want that to continue as we move into life beyond lockdown. That’s why we’ve proposed measures, backed by up to £5m of funding, to create space which allows people to continue making safe, sustainable journeys.”
Chris Boardman, Cycling and Walking Commissioner for Greater Manchester, said: “Like any successful response to a crisis, people must be the priority. And fortunately, the data is unambiguous; during lockdown more and more residents across Greater Manchester are turning to walking and cycling for essential journeys and exercise. So, in order give people the space they need to keep safe, the only real question was: how soon can we act?”
Some of these measures will extend to Salford, Bolton and Wigan, while across the Pennines, Bradford Council is temporarily widening pavements and cycle lanes to help people maintain two metres social distance as they shop, walk or cycle around the city, improving crossings for pedestrians, and reducing bottlenecks and slowing vehicle speeds to make the roads safer for cyclists and walkers.
Over the next couple of weeks the first round of measures will be introduced across the Bradford city-region, including:
- Reducing speed limits in Shipley town centre and on roads near schools to 20mph to help children walk safely to school (June 2020).
- Widening of non-segregated cycle lanes on roads.
- Pedestrian crossings at Princes Way and Bridge Street in the city centre have been modified to automatically provide a ‘green man’ crossing signal without the need for people to push the call button.
- Working in partnership with Capital of Cycling to loan bicycles to key workers and hiring a ‘Cycling and Active Travel Champion’ officer.
- Suspending, initially for 12 months, the £300 charge for an outdoor seating licence for pubs and restaurants.
These initial measures are likely to be followed by additional ideas to help maintain and increase levels of walking and cycling when the lockdown eases.