One idea which has made the headlines due to recent guidance from central Government is the introduction of more pedestrian and bicycle friendly high streets. Could this be Covid-19’s legacy to our towns and cities?
Certainly many of us have been enjoying cycling as a means of exercise and a way to get some fresh air during the lockdown period, and at the same time are looking at alternatives to public transport to get us where we want to be, whether that be to work or otherwise. Can we therefore combine the two?
Reducing the number of cars in town and city centres to allow for a safer experience for cyclists sounds promising in theory, and is being picked up in many regions as a way to aid economic recovery. It might also allow road space to be given over to table and chairs, allowing restaurants and cafes to operate more easily within current social distancing guidelines.
There will be practical issues to get around, such as providing sufficient cycle storage and changing road layouts (new legislation has been brought in to help with that), but what about the wider picture in more rural areas of how to actually get to the high street from outlying villages? Will landowners be incentivised to open up their land to new rights of way, so that cyclists can avoid some of the busier main roads, with junctions not designed with them in mind? That doesn’t seem to be part of the Government’s plan so far.
Cycling won’t be the answer for everyone of course, whether due to distance or health reasons if nothing else. Will restricting vehicular access (and therefore some users) to high streets on a more permanent basis do more harm than good? What about the loss in parking revenue? It will be interesting to see how different authorities react to this initiative.