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How to Maintain the Momentum of Sustainable Transport

Conflict between different types of road users isn’t unique, it’s happening across the country right now. Safer cycling and walking measures installed during the first Covid-19 lockdown are creating friction as the nights draw in, the weather gets colder and traffic volumes rise.

So what’s going on? Why are people so outraged that some of them have been moved to vandalise street furniture installed to create traffic-free routes? Part of the issue is the reduced use of public transport. As a recent Guardian article pointed out, helping people travel safely by bike is the best way to avoid traffic gridlock.

Are People Against Cycling or Against Inconvenience?

It’s unlikely that anyone is genuinely against making it easier for people to get about by cycling and walking. It would be equally unlikely that residents anywhere are against cleaner air, less congested roads and a population that takes more daily exercise. It’s more to do with how urban environments in the UK have evolved around the convenience of cars.

It also has a lot to do with how emergency safe cycling schemes were (for all the right reasons) implemented without the usual consideration, planning and consultation.

What we can’t afford to do is turn back the clock and accept that greater use of cycling and walking was a passing and impractical fad. The prize on offer isn’t just healthier air and a healthier population. Traffic reductions could also rejuvenate town and city centres by making them calmer and more enjoyable environments.

Moving Forward, Not Back

Transport for London research suggests that improving walking and cycling infrastructure on local high streets boosts spending in local businesses, improves air quality, and helps residents feel happier and healthier. We can, and must, make this a permanent change of direction.

What it needs is a collaborative approach that involves organisations with expertise in multi-modal transportation. The aim should be to develop innovative yet practical schemes that work for all stakeholders. Permanent solutions will in many cases look quite different to the temporary ones. Implementing them will call for experience in building safe cycle routes, working in live traffic environments and installing bridges and overpasses.

With imagination and expertise, it is genuinely possible to build transport networks that work for all.

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