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How Do We Help More People to Travel by Bike or On Foot?

As the nation gets back to work, reducing congestion on public transport is an important aspect of containing the spread of the Covid-19 virus and avoiding further waves of infection. Wherever possible, people are being encouraged to travel on foot or by bike rather than use public transport. What will it take to make this a reality in the short and longer term?

A £250m Emergency Active Travel Fund is being made available immediately to fast-track the expansion of protected cycleways in town and city centres. This is the first stage of a wider £2bn investment in safe cycle and footpaths across the nation.

Beyond the current crisis, there are many benefits in encouraging cycling and walking to work. The exercise is good for us and better air quality will reduce levels of respiratory illness. This could cut thousands of preventable deaths each year. The switch will also cut the nation’s CO2 emissions significantly.

Elsewhere, cities such as Paris have been spurred on by the coronavirus crisis to accelerate plans to prioritise cyclists and pedestrians over cars in the battle for space on urban road networks.

Cycle Routes and Social Distancing

Given the benefits, you might ask why we had not already done more to make towns and cities more bike and pedestrian friendly. The straightforward answer is that it is not easy. It is further complicated by the need to make emergency protected cycleways wide enough to allow for social distancing.

Mixing cycle and vehicle traffic safely calls for careful planning and attention to detail, particularly to minimise instances where vehicles have to turn across or pass through the cycle route. Integration to achieve the most efficient flow of people and traffic is always a challenge in busy urban environments. This will be exacerbated if we end up, temporarily, with more private cars on the road as people seek alternatives to public transport.

There is also the question of what happens to all of these bikes when they reach their destination. Secure cycle storage in the right locations must be built into these schemes if they are to have the desired effect.

Wider-ranging schemes to open up urban spaces to cyclists and pedestrians will also have to address the issues of crossing or running alongside live road and rail routes. This calls for specialist expertise, which we will look at in more detail in another article.

Osborne has significant experience in creating safe cycle routes that integrate effectively with other modes of transport. Visit www.osborne.co.uk/transport-infrastructure to find out more.

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