Our lives have changed dramatically in recent weeks. It’s been amazing and heartening to see how everyone has pulled together and adapted in creative and thoughtful ways. Cycling has played a crucial role, providing a safe means of transport for key-workers, enabling volunteers to deliver food and meds to those who are isolating, making green spaces accessible for those without access to gardens, and providing a much-needed outlet as a safe means of exercise for ordinary people.
The drop in vehicle traffic and need to avoid public transport where possible has encouraged more people to start walking and cycling – a positive change that York Cycle Campaign applauds. But sadly the quieter roads have also resulted in a rise in motorists driving at extreme speeds, with some parts of the country recording twice the number of speeding offences as normal. Many cyclists are also experiencing a worrying number of close-passes. Many footpaths around the city are substantially undersized to allow 2m separation due to ever widened road lanes, especially in areas outside shops where customers are having to queue outside
We can’t predict exactly what the future will hold, but the most recent research, carried out by a highly respected team of epidemiologists and immunologists at Harvard University and published in Science, indicates that we are likely to be continuing some form of social distancing until 2022, and can expect to see flare-ups of Covid-19 for many years to come.
Although we may see some relaxation of lock-down measures it is likely that social distancing will remain a new ‘normal’ for many months to come. In order to cope with this we need to adapt our infrastructure to support people and enable them to continue carrying out essential tasks and exercising.
Around the world and across the UK cities are temporarily reallocating road space from cars to people on foot and cycles. York Cycle Campaign asks that City of York Council does this too. There are a wide range of actions that could be taken to support front-line efforts to deal with the impact of Covid-19. York Cycle Campaign urges City of York Council to consider the suggestions made by Transport Consultant, Mark Strong, and colleagues. In particular we’d like to see temporary bollards installed to prevent through traffic using residential roads. Given the significant reduction in traffic city-wide this measure would not add to traffic congestion or inconvenience drivers, and instead it would open up a network of safe quiet streets for cyclists and pedestrians. We’d also like to see temporary cycling space created on some of the main roads through the city, particularly in bottleneck areas including bridges over rivers, rail lines and the ring-road. This may require some creative thinking and the introduction of temporary one-way systems for drivers, to accommodate the necessary safe space for cyclists. And, in order to promote safe social distancing, we suggest that barriers on cycle routes are relaxed (for example removing the humps and baffles on the barriers to Hob Moor) to minimise the chance of Covid-19 being transmitted via touching of hard surfaces.
York Cycle Campaign would be happy to work with the council, helping to envision the kind of changes that will enable safe movement for everyone throughout this health crisis, and enabling the implementation of the necessary changes.
We have created a petition to ask for these temporary changes to York’s transport network, and urge everyone to support these measures.