Bedford Square Gateway Project
This scheme, which covers Bedford Square, Wards End and Devonshire Square, will create a more attractive and pedestrian-friendly destination for shoppers, with the ambition of increasing footfall and boosting trade in the area.
Footpaths are to be widened and re-paved to improve access, with character street lighting and furniture making it more attractive. It will open up a large space in Devonshire Square where events can be hosted. Parking spaces will reduce from 65 to 55 to accommodate this.
New pedestrian crossings will be added to improve safety, and overall the amount of paved area for pedestrians will increase by nearly a third.
There is to be a large cycle parking bay provided in Bedford Square (next to Perrett & Co) and also cycle stands at the top end of Devonshire Square (opposite Mills Yard).
Work is planned for early 2021 with completion by October 2021. Estimated cost c.£1.9M.
Cycling popularity soars during lockdown
Whilst the number of people cycling to work has, for obvious reasons, dropped, many parts of the UK have seen significant increases in cycling numbers. Some traffic counters have seen a huge rise in cycling, including a 215% increase in Dunfermline and a 121% increase in Newton Mearns. On the south coast of England, increases of up to 250% were also registered, while bike shops in Northern Ireland noted a huge surge in demand.
Public Space for Active Travel
With a sharp decline in traffic, re-purposing urban space to allow for more walking and cycling during the lockdown has become widespread. From Leicester to Brighton, road space is being re-allocated for walking and cycling.
Brighton and Hove City Council was the first UK council to close a major road along the south coast resort’s seafront to motor traffic in favour of walkers and cyclists. Such road space re-allocations are already being rolled out successfully in New Zealand, the USA, Italy, Canada, Germany and elsewhere. But will the trend last post-lockdown?
The Department for Transport has given local authorities more powers to re-allocate road space to walking and cycling, such as closing roads or changing their use, as long as they’re in line with Government COVID-19 safety guidance.
But ‘quick and dirty’ re-allocation of road space has not been happening widely in the UK, compared to other countries. Road space re-allocation requires political decisions and most councils are not meeting, plus elected members often may not believe the current demand for cycling will be sustained. This is compounded by highways teams being stood down, apart from emergency maintenance works, or being re-deployed.
A recent poll by Ipsos Mori shows 61% of Britons are uncomfortable about taking public transport post-lockdown. In London, the walking and cycling commissioner, Will Norman, said that currently the capital’s public transport capacity is running at a fifth of pre-crisis levels, meaning post-lockdown “up to eight million journeys a day will need to be made by other means. If people switch only a fraction of these journeys to cars, London will grind to a halt.”
The concern of transport specialists is not just how to prevent gridlock for commuters, but also how to keep essential delivery and emergency services running smoothly should the nation’s work force choose to drive rather than taking public transport.
Academics from the Department for Transport funded Cycling Infrastructure Prioritisation project have looked at English cities with a high cycling potential, and identified 160km of streets and roads which could benefit from temporary walking and cycling infrastructure. In total these facilites would provide a benefit to a quarter of England’s population.
Dr Robin Lovelace, Associate Professor of Transport Data Science at Leeds University, who conducted the research said:
“As this research based on the data, local knowledge and the wider evidence base shows, there’s a massive potential to get the UK moving safely as we begin to transition out of lockdown. Active transport interventions supported by our analysis could help UK’s economic recovery by allowing people to take key trips by healthy and affordable modes while practicing social distancing.
Active transport uptake now will also mean our cities have better air quality and safer roads in the longer term.”
Fast-tracked statutory guidance, published on May 9 and effective immediately, tells councils to reallocate roadspace for significantly-increased numbers of cyclists and pedestrians. In towns and cities, some streets could become bike and bus-only while others remain available for motorists.
More side streets can be closed to through traffic, to create low-traffic neighbourhoods and reduce rat-running while maintaining access for vehicles.
Transport Minister Grant Shapps said: 'The government ... expects local authorities to make significant changes to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians. Such changes will help embed altered behaviours and demonstrate the positive effects of active travel.
'I’m pleased to see that many authorities have already begun to do this, and I urge you all to consider how you can begin to make use of the tools in this guidance, to make sure you do what is necessary to ensure transport networks support recovery from the COVID-19 emergency and provide a lasting legacy of greener, safer transport.'
A £250M emergency active travel fund has been announced for England, the first stage of a £2Bn investment, for pop-up cycle lanes providing protected space for cycling, wider pavements and safer junctions. In addition cycle and bus-only corridors are to be created. It is hoped that promoting active travel will relieve both the pressure on public transport and reduce road congestion.
Bike Week 2020
Only one month to go until Bike Week 2020, and for obvious reasons this event, which is sponsored by Cycling UK, will look rather different this year. While it will not be possible to run group events, we can still head out for our daily exercise – and spread the word about how great cycling is.
The pandemic provides an opportunity to focus attention on the benefits of cycling. People have all been forced to re-examine the way they live and many are finding that one way they can improve their lives is to cycle.
Bike Week runs from 6 to 14 June and Cycling UK is providing suggestions for both practical and digital events on its website at https://www.cyclinguk.org/bikeweek/7daysofcycling .
It is not known whether the lockdown rules will change in the next month. If they are eased that’s to be welcomed, but if not people can still enjoy the benefits or cycling – whether that’s riding to work, popping to the shops for essentials, discovering a new local loop or simply sorting out and riding a bicycle left at the back of the garage/shed unused for many years.
Blessing for Cycling
The current lockdown has been both a curse and a blessing for cycling. Whilst group cycling is not on, one of the few benefits of the Covid-19 lockdown had been the much quieter roads experienced when taking a walk or cycle ride for daily exercise. In particular, it has been great to see many families taking advantage of these conditions to go for a family cycle ride.
It is to be hoped that at the end of this process many people will have realised that the car is not necessary for many journeys, and that active travel (walking and cycling) is a much better alternative for both our physical and mental health. In addition, it provides obvious environmental benefits such as cleaner air and reduced carbon dioxide emissions, to say nothing of the cost savings.
If this trend is to continue, it will be essential to continue campaigning for both better infrastructure and the strict enforcement of speed limits on roads used by walkers and cyclists.
The Government has come round to the view that it is essential to promote active travel, if the transport system is not to become completely congested as lockdown restrictions are lifted, and have provided local authorities with powers and funds to re-allocate roadspace for active travel.To encourage Leicestershire County Council to make the most of this, the following open letter has been sent to Director of Environment and Transport :-
You will no doubt be aware of the new statutory guidance, published on May 9, enabling councils to reallocate roadspace to promote active travel (walking and pedal or electric assist cycling) while enabling social distancing to be maintained.
Transport Minister Grant Shapps said: “The government ... expects local authorities to make significant changes to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians. Such changes will help embed altered behaviours and demonstrate the positive effects of active travel.”The guidelines he has issued state that “Active travel is affordable, delivers significant health benefits, has been shown to improve wellbeing, mitigates congestion, improves air quality and has no carbon emissions at the point of use. Towns and cities based around active travel will have happier and healthier citizens as well as lasting local economic benefits. The government therefore expects local authorities to make significant changes to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians. “
We believe that this provides you with an opportunity to test radical changes in the allocation of space between motor traffic and active travellers on a “try before you buy” basis. Loughborough is ideal as a town for active travel, with most dwellings being within two miles of the centre, and the larger part of the town not having any challenging hills. The long term ambition should be for active travel to account for at least 50% of journeys.
In particular we would urge you to take this opportunity to provide safe active travel routes to all schools and colleges, restricting motor traffic and parking during school arrival and departure times.
A 20mph speed limit should also be introduced on all the roads within Loughborough. This will make active travellers feel safer and maximise the capacity of the system, since slower vehicles require less road space. Such changes would also benefit the users of wheelchairs and mobility scooters.
For an example of what can be achieved, Groningen in the Netherlands can boast active travel accounting for more than two-thirds of all trips and the cleanest air of any big Dutch city. See https://tinyurl.com/ya2gatch .