It feels like London has never been emptier, but even in lockdown, space in the capital is still at a premium. As people avoid public transport and keep two metres apart on their daily walks, trying to social distance on London’s narrow streets and pavements is proving tricky.
To help people get their daily exercise while still keeping their distance, many cities across the world have begun to find ways to reduce road traffic and pedestrianise streets. Now people are using their cars less, some German cities have created pop-up cycle lanes, New Zealand is widening pavements and creating temporary cycleways and Manchester became the first UK city to close one of its streets to cars.
Now, it looks like London may follow suit.
TfL and City Hall have said they are looking into whether major roads in London can be given over to pedestrians and cyclists. This may mean turning some streets into temporary cycle lanes, widening pavements and adjusting traffic signals to make it easier for people to cross roads.
London’s walking and cycling commissioner, Will Norman, said: ‘TfL and City Hall will work with London boroughs who are looking to reduce traffic on residential streets as long as this does not hinder the emergency services or other essential journeys. We are also looking at the busiest parts of our road network to see where we can give people walking more space.’
Hackney is one of the London boroughs considering making its roads more pedestrian-friendly, including turning some streets into car-free zones. Plans being examined by Hackney council include temporary road closures and using planters and bollards on streets to allow walking and cycling. The council is currently drawing up a list of roads to be considered by the Mayor and the cabinet next week.
Councillor Jon Burke said: ‘Now, more than ever, people need space that they are finding is not available to them because so much is given over to roads. By creating temporary healthy and liveable streets we’d be helping people to socially distance during exercise and while queuing for shops, and keep them safer from higher traffic speeds. This would reduce pressure on our parks and green spaces, and assist the police at this difficult time.’
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