The Scottish government has invited councils to bid to a £10m fund to deliver temporary walking and cycling routes, or temporary improvements to existing routes, to ensure social distancing is maintained during the Covid-19 outbreak.
The UK Government’s guidance is that people should remain at least two metres apart from other citizens who are not part of their household. This poses challenges for pedestrians and cyclists, and will become a greater challenge as travel restrictions are eased. Social distancing requirements could remain in place for more than a year, only ending when a vaccine has been developed.
The £10m ‘Spaces for People’ fund will be administered by Sustrans Scotland. The pot has been created by diverting part of this year’s Places for Everyone Fund budget, which is also managed by Sustrans.
Councils will not have to provide match-funding to deliver measures.
Announcing the new fund to Parliament this week, Michael Matheson, Scotland’s cabinet secretary for transport, infrastructure and connectivity, said he had told councils the ‘Spaces for People’ initiative was “designed with agility and pace in mind”.
“I very much hope that local authorities will come forward with bold, ambitious plans to implement temporary active travel measures, following the example of cities, towns and places around the world.
“Our communities need this support quickly, especially with the welcome increases in cycling we are seeing across the country. At the same time, almost every journey starts and ends on our pavements in some way, and so it is vitally important that people can physically distance for those essential trips or for exercise.”
MSPs asked if the temporary measures could become permanent changes.
Matheson replied: “As we eventually move out of social distancing, some local authorities might consider the temporary infrastructure arrangements that they have put in place and choose to continue with them permanently, but that will very much be a matter for local authorities.
“Should local authorities wish to consider putting in permanent infrastructure, they will have to go through a more detailed process, because of the implications of such an approach. A legal process must be gone through to put in permanent physical infrastructure of that nature.”
The Scottish Government has issued guidance explaining how councils can use existing powers for temporary traffic regulation orders (TTROs) and notices (TTRNs) to quickly implement measures such as road closures or road space reallocations to benefit pedestrians and cyclists.
TTROs can be used to introduce measures for up to 18 months and require no prior consultation.
TTRNs can be used where councils “consider it necessary or expedient that the measures should come into force without delay”. TTRNs for the reason of danger to the public can last for up to 21 days if necessary and can be renewed.
“TTRNs allow traffic authorities to respond very quickly to urgent circumstances when necessary but are not to be used for long periods of time,” Transport Scotland explains. “They can allow time for traffic authorities to put in place longer term measures if they consider it appropriate.”
The Government has also drawn councils’ attention to the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020. “Local authorities making traffic regulation orders can consider whether the adjustments made by the Act in relation to publishing or making available documents are applicable.”
Campaign group Cycling UK has written to council leaders across Britain urging them to implement low cost measures to help cyclists and pedestrians maintain social distancing. It suggests:
Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, said: “A small number of councils are leading the way across Britain by being proactive in their measures against Covid-19. Introducing measures to make cycling and walking safer and social distancing easier is essential not just for right now, but also for the future when lockdown restrictions are relaxed.”
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