NHS trusts and cycling organisations have called on the government to provide a clear positive ministerial statement to encourage local authorities to consider implementing temporary initiatives for cycling and walking.
A letter sent to Chris Heaton-Harris MP, the Minister of State responsible for cycling and walking, says that safe cycling and walking infrastructure is needed urgently.
The letter from cycle manufacturer Brompton has been signed by Barts Health NHS Trust, The Bicycle Association, British Cycling, Cycling UK, the London Cycle Campaign, The Ramblers and Sustrans.
The letter states providing bikes for keyworkers is only part of the solution and that safe cycling and walking infrastructure is needed urgently.
The signatories point to examples of towns and cities around the world that are enabling cycling and walking during COVID-19, within social distancing guidelines, by implementing temporary infrastructure.
They welcome the Department’s giving local authorities powers to implement initiatives of this kind using Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders and similar procedures. However, they suggest a clear, positive ministerial statement encouraging local highway authorities to consider implementing temporary initiatives would give local authorities the confidence to quickly implement measures.
The organisations also address what will happen when restrictions are lifted. They suggest that much of the UK population may be hesitant to use public transport.
The letter says that to mitigate against a second wave of coronavirus cases, it is prudent to plan now for key workers but also to allow the wider population to travel by bicycle or by foot as lockdown restrictions lift.
Besides supporting social distancing, the letter’s signatories believe that better cycling infrastructure measures would have a positive impact on health as workers.
When asked by Ruth Cadbury MP during the recent Transport Select Committee about temporary infrastructure for cycling and walking, Chris Heaton-Harris MP, pointed to the Wheels For Heroes crowdfunding campaign.
Temporary infrastructure for cycling and walking
Firstly, thank you very much for your supportive words in relation to the Wheels For Heroes crowdfunding campaign during the Transport Select Committee on 7 April 2020. You will be pleased to know that we are on track to manufacture 1,000 Brompton bikes for use by NHS staff, thanks to the generous donations from over 1,600 supporters.
However, providing bikes for key workers is just one small part of enabling cycling during this crisis. With the large increase in people, including children, cycling and walking, it’s clear that many street layouts across the UK are not currently fit for purpose during the pandemic.
As you will be aware, towns and cities around the world are enabling cycling and walking during COVID-19, within social distancing guidelines, by implementing temporary infrastructure. This is already being rolled out successfully in New Zealand and by a number of cities in the USA, Canada, Germany and elsewhere. We have vast amounts of currently underused road space that can be temporarily reallocated at low cost. This is becoming increasingly essential as key workers choose cycling or walking to get to work, avoiding potential transmission via public transport. You will have also noticed a surge in people cycling and walking for exercise in line with the government’s public health recommendations; such measures improve conditions for these groups too.
We welcome your Department’s statement made yesterday, clarifying that local authorities have powers to take initiatives of this kind using Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders and similar procedures. Our organisations would, however, urge you to go further and provide a clear positive ministerial statement encouraging local highway authorities to consider implementing temporary initiatives of this kind. That would give local authorities the confidence to quickly implement measures, enabling safe cycling and walking within the Government’s social distancing guidelines.
In discussion with NHS colleagues, we know that these measures would have a positive impact in encouraging more health workers to cycle to work and have the added benefit of providing safe segregation or protection from motor traffic.
Finally, post the current lockdown restrictions, a large proportion of the UK population will again be moving around towns and cities, but hesitant to use public transport where there is a greater risk of transmission. In order to mitigate against a second wave influx of Coronavirus cases, we feel it prudent to plan ahead and implement these temporary measures now for key workers but also to allow the wider population to travel by bicycle or by foot in the short term as lockdown restrictions lift.
We ask for your prompt and public encouragement of local authorities to support these initiatives. That way, we can quickly enable active travel by our NHS heroes and the key workers who are helping the country through this crisis.
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