Covid-19: London to rapidly expand space for cycling and walking, post-lockdown

Transport for London (TfL) and London Mayor Sadiq Kahn are preparing to rapidly expand physical infrastructure dedicated to cycling and walking in the capital, to relieve pressure on other transport modes and help enable social distancing, post-Covid-19 lockdown.
The plans have been rapidly drawn up in the face of a predicted 10-fold increase in cycle traffic and five-fold increase in pedestrian numbers, according to initial TfL modelling, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson heralding a ‘new golden age of cycling’.
New bicycle lanes and wider pavements (sidewalks) will be rapidly rolled out in the coming weeks in an attempt to accommodate demand for, and encourage the use of, active modes of transport. The plans – dubbed London Streetspace – also tie into a policy that clean, green and sustainable travel to be at the heart of London’s recovery.

With London’s public transport capacity potentially running at a fifth of pre-crisis levels, millions of journeys a day will need to be made by other means. If people switch only a fraction of these journeys to cars, London risks grinding to a halt, air quality will worsen, and road danger will increase.

To prevent this happening, TfL will rapidly repurpose London’s streets to serve this unprecedented demand for walking and cycling in a major new strategic shift. The rapid construction of a strategic cycling network, using temporary materials, will include new routes aimed at reducing crowding on Underground and train lines, and on busy bus corridors.

Speaking at Prime Minster’s Questions, Boris Johnson (left) said, “A crucial part of our success now in getting transport to run safely will be running a bigger and more expansive tube service so that people can observe social distancing, and we will certainly be working with the London mayor in trying to achieve that.

“There must be mitigations to help people who for reasons of social distancing cannot use mass transit. And there will be a huge amount of planning going into helping people to get to work other than by mass transit. This will be, I hope, a new golden age for cycling.”

London’s Euston Road, pre-lockdown

Euston Road is one of the first main thoroughfares to benefit from temporary cycle lanes. Park Lane could follow suit under plans being studied. Meanwhile many pedestrian walkways across the capital have already been expanded to help accommodate social distancing with more earmarked to follow suit. The temporary schemes will be reviewed by TfL – and could become permanent.

“The capacity of our public transport will be dramatically reduced post-coronavirus as a result of the huge challenges we face around social distancing,” says the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan (left). “Everyone who can work from home must continue to do so for some time to come. The emergency measures included in our major strategic London Streetspace programme will help those who have to travel to work by fast-tracking the transformation of streets across our city. Many Londoners have rediscovered the joys of walking and cycling during lockdown and, by quickly and cheaply widening pavements, creating temporary cycle lanes and closing roads to through traffic we will enable millions more people to change the way they get around our city.

“I urge the government and boroughs to work with us to enable Londoners to switch to cleaner, more sustainable forms of transport – and reduce the pressure on other parts of our transport network – once the lockdown is eased.”

Gareth Powell (left), managing director of surface transport at TfL, adds: “As people are choosing to walk and cycle, both for their essential journeys and for exercise during the lockdown it is vital that they have the space to do so safely and are able to continue socially distancing. The London Streetspace programme – providing more space for walking and cycling – will support that. It will also play a crucial role as London approaches the challenge of maintaining social distancing as restrictions on movement are relaxed.”

The measures announced today (6 May 2020) are said to be just the beginning, with more information on the London Streetspace plans set to be announced soon.

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About Author


Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).