Daily US Times: Popular spots in the UK have been unnatural for weeks as no more crowds are seen there, but people started to reemerging the sites. This is a part of nationwide effort to create more space for social distancing. But this long lockdown and potential threat to reemerge of the virus forced authorities to rethink how people do their travel.
The UK gradually begins to lift the coronavirus restrictions. York, Brighton, Glasgow, and Leicester have also created new space for walking or cycling this week and dozens more UK cities and towns plan to do so.
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, said on Friday that he would be shutting some of the busiest roads in the city. Mr Khan said his plan to close large swathes of London to cars and vans would create one of the largest car-free areas of any city in the world.
He said: “Many Londoners have rediscovered the joys of walking and cycling during lockdown.”
“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.”
Sadiq Khan acknowledged that the changes would cause disruption for many residents but stressed that he no choice but to rapidly repurpose London’s streets for people.
“By ensuring our city’s recovery is green, we will also tackle our toxic air, which is vital to make sure we don’t replace one public health crisis with another,” he said.
The authorities of the country make many temporary changes in response to the coronavirus crisis. But many local authorities say that they would like to make them permanent after consultation with locals.
Councillor Angeliki Stogia, Manchester’s lead member for Transport and Environment told, “We hope that pedestrians and cyclists will reclaim the streets of this city.”
The coronavirus crisis has allowed many projects to be quickly done.
She said: “Some of the projects Manchester is introducing have been in the planning process for years.”
The government has acknowledged that it faces one of the biggest challenges resolving how we can travel while maintaining social distancing as it starts to lift the coronavirus lockdown measures.
People are asked not to use public transport if they can avoid it, yet if people take to their cars, our streets will be choked with traffic.
The British government announced last week what it called a “once in a generation” investment to change the way Britain gets around. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps ordered local authorities of the country to make “significant changes” to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians.
He said he would be setting up a £250 million emergency fund to encourage what he called “active travel”.
Mr Shapps said the money was the first installment of a £2bn package for walking and cycling, part of a £5bn investment that was announced in February.
But most of the new measures involve restricting the access of car and other motor vehicles. Some motorists see what is happening as a land grab, conducted under the cover of covid and designed to create “new facts on the ground”.
Road Haulage Association’s Rod McKenzie said: “What is worrying about this is that it feels anti-motorist, anti-cars, anti-lorries, anti-vans.”
He said: “All those methods of transport are essential for economic recovery, so don’t punish one group at the expense of the other.”
Manchester has dubbed its campaign to encourage cycling and walking “Safe Streets Save Lives”. The city says it will use £5m of emergency funding to introduce changes where they are most needed, transport hubs or on route to hospitals and so outside shops.
The aim is that these initiatives will help achieve the authority’s goal of making the city carbon-neutral by 2038 as well as creating a healthier, more pleasant city.
The focus is not just on the city centre, rather broader plan includes extended parts. Levenshulme in south-east Manchester will see some of the most dramatic traffic calming measures in the entire region.
The plan is that 30 traffic filters made of heavy concrete flower pots and bollards will close much of the neighbourhood to through traffic over the next few weeks.
Levenshulme resident Pauline Johnson says: “We have consulted with the community and they say want to make this area a nicer place to live.”
She said local people’s response to this has been overwhelmingly positive. “They say they want this to be somewhere where children can play safely in the streets.”
Along with many other things, travel is going to get a new shape for this pandemic.