The needs of the logistics sector have been ignored by the Government in its guidance for managing urban streets during the coronavirus lockdown, says the Freight Transport Association (FTA).
The FTA is concerned that guidelines for post-COVID-19 active travel published by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps failed to contain recommendations for the freight sector.
Natalie Chapman, Head of Urban Policy at the FTA, said the published plans overlook the role which logistics plays in keeping cities and towns stocked with the goods and services they require. The guidelines do not provide the scope needed to ensure logistics operators can supply their customers safely and effectively, she argued.
“The published statutory guidance directs councils to reallocate road space for significantly-increased numbers of cyclists and pedestrians but overlooks access for those who keep our cities supplied with everything they need, logistics vehicles,” she said. “While the Government seeks to encourage active travel and social distancing through its strategy, which are both laudable ambitions, there are many areas affecting the safe movement of goods and services which have been left out of the plan.”
To manage the spread of COVID-19, there is a need for people walking and cycling to be able to practice social distancing. Narrow pavements and cycleways make this difficult, so the Government has announced guidance for local authorities to make use of road space, which is currently quieter due to the fall in traffic volumes as people heed the government’s advice to stay at home.
The FTA’s areas of concern are two-fold: that access to the kerbside for deliveries and servicing activity is impaired; and potential increases in journey times.
“Following the government’s announcement about changes to the lockdown restrictions, and in particular to encourage those who cannot work from home to go to work, this could mean that quite quickly, the roads become busier again,” said Chapman. “Therefore, it is important that any temporary reallocation of road space for walking and cycling can be flexed and changed in a dynamic way to reflect changes in demand.”
The FTA has written to Transport Minister Baroness Vere to request clarification on several areas which are key to safe and efficient logistics movements throughout our cities. “While we and our members fully support the government’s intentions, to protect the public from COVID-19 and improve air quality significantly as the economy returns to normal, the needs of our sector must not be overlooked,” said Chapman.
The association is also engaging with councils and highways authorities on the design and management of kerbspace. Chapman said: “The FTA is urging authorities to provide reassurance that access to the kerbside for deliveries and servicing activity is maintained at all times – particularly as shops begin to reopen and demand for goods increases – and that any temporary reallocation of road space for walking and cycling be flexed and changed dynamically to reflect changes in demand and to ensure access for vital logistics services.”
Road closures and diversions must consider the increased journey times involved and the potential disruption that displaced traffic could cause on nearby roads, said Chapman. “As businesses get up and running again, it is important that any enforcement against delivery vehicles is proportionate and focused on vehicles causing an obstruction to traffic flow or a danger to road safety,” she suggested. “It would be preferable, too, if restrictions on delivery hours could be reviewed to enable, where possible, for deliveries to take place at times when the roads are quieter, including earlier in the morning, later in the evening, overnight and at weekends to enable businesses to get back on their feet without interruption or delay.”
The FTA said there is a need to engage with businesses before implementing schemes. “Consultations with local businesses are also vital before plans are implemented wherever possible, even though their shopfronts may be closed, so they can make sure proposals meet their needs when they re-open,” said Chapman.
It will also be important to enable deliveries to residential areas. Chapman said: “As many people will continue to work from home or choose to self-isolate, the high volumes of home deliveries will continue, so it is important to also maintain access for deliveries in residential streets.”
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