Major changes will be made the road and cycle network in Gateshead town centre to meet demand for more space for walking and cycling since the lockdown.
Gateshead Council will use government funding for temporary cycle lanes to try out draft plans in advance while there is less traffic around.
It has unveiled a series of temporary measures that it hopes will allow the creation of new safe cycle lanes and improved pedestrian routes in Gateshead town centre.
Work will begin this week on a series of changes, including:
Anneliese Hutchinson, service director for development, transport and public Protection, said: “We know we need to do something about improving cycling and walking links between Gateshead and Newcastle and the Quays because that's what people tell us, and because we know we need to improve our air quality and tackle climate change.
“The huge increase in cycling during the lockdown demonstrated in the clearest possible manner that there is a massive unmet demand for cycling. We want to encourage that and provide a safe alternative for people trying to commute.
“Traffic has grown and grown since the 1960s and our roads have expanded along with it, but by trying to accommodate that growth we've created a situation where the roads around the town centre effectively act as a barrier to people wanting to cycle and walk.
“How people shop and spend their leisure time is changing and more than ever before, we need local people to visit our town centre on foot or by cycle and for it to be a safe and pleasant destination rather than somewhere people commute through in their car.”
Alice Wiseman, Gateshead's Director of Public Health, added: "There are clear health benefits to regular exercise and cycling and walking are both convenient ways of getting that exercise, but that is by no means the whole story.
“It is likely that some level of social distancing will remain a fact of life for some time. We have seen a radical shift in travel habits over the past couple of months with walking and cycling increasing as people enjoy their daily exercise or take journeys they might otherwise have made by car.
“Research suggests that the vast majority of journeys of under two miles (60%) in the UK are made by car, so walking and cycling really could offer a viable alternative for many people. Encouraging people to keep walking and cycling will continue to benefit the environment and the health and wellbeing of Gateshead residents.
“These changes are experimental and we will be looking for the public's views and opinions as these works develop and it's likely that we will need to fine-tune and adjust some aspects. However, we're pretty sure we need to do something close to this to tackle Gateshead's air quality concerns and improve connectivity between Newcastle and within Gateshead."
Road works associated with these changes will begin on Friday 24 July with a view to the new routes being in place by mid-September.
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