Temporary bike lanes: Case builds for clear government direction

Chris Heaton-Harris MP, the Minister of State responsible for Cycling & Walking, has been told that safe cycling and walking infrastructure is needed urgently.

Further, he has been urged to provide a clear positive ministerial statement to encourage local authorities to consider implementing temporary initiatives for cycling and walking – like temporary bike lanes.

In a letter signed by Brompton, Barts Health NHS Trust, Cycling UK, The Bicycle Association, Sustrans, British Cycling, The Ramblers and the London Cycle Campaign.

The move follows successful initiatives in cities like Berlin, which has redrawn road markings to dedicate more space to cyclists.

While the Covid-19 lockdown has precipitated the call, the letter discusses the post-lockdown environment – a topic increasingly in the minds and headlines as the UK enters the start of a further three weeks of strict ‘distancing’ measures.

When restrictions are lifted, it’s likely much of the UK population will be hesitant to use public transport. The letter argues that to mitigate against a second wave influx of Coronavirus cases, it is prudent to plan ahead and implement these temporary measures now for key workers but also to allow the wider population to travel by bicycle or by foot in the short term as lockdown restrictions lift.

The letter signatories, including the Director of Public Health at Barts Health NHS Trust, believes that these measures would have a positive impact in encouraging more health workers to cycle to work and have the added benefit of providing safe segregation or protection from motor traffic. It will also support social distancing for the increasing number of people cycling and walking for exercise in line with the government’s public health recommendations.

Chris Heaton-Harris MP, when asked by Ruth Cadbury during the recent Transport Select Committee about temporary infrastructure for cycling and walking, pointed to the Wheels For Heroes crowdfunding campaign; but providing bikes for keyworkers is only part of the solution. The letter argues that safe cycling and walking infrastructure is needed urgently.

17 April 2020

Dear Minister

Temporary infrastructure for cycling and walking

Firstly, thank you very much for your supportive words in relation to the Wheels For Heroes crowdfunding campaign during the Transport Select Committee on 7th April 2020. You will be pleased to know that we are on track to manufacture 1,000 Brompton bikes for use by NHS staff, thanks to the generous donations from over 1,600 supporters.

However, providing bikes for key workers is just one small part of enabling cycling during this crisis. With the large increase in people, including children, cycling and walking, it’s clear that many street layouts across the UK are not currently fit for purpose during the pandemic.

As you will be aware, towns and cities around the world are enabling cycling and walking during COVID-19, within social distancing guidelines, by implementing temporary infrastructure. This is already being rolled out successfully in New Zealand and by a number of cities in the USA, Canada, Germany and elsewhere. We have vast amounts of currently underused road space which can be temporarily reallocated at low cost. This is becoming increasingly essential as key workers choose cycling or walking to get to work, avoiding potential transmission via public transport. You will have also noticed a surge in people cycling and walking for exercise in line with the government’s public health recommendations; such measures improve conditions for these groups too.

We welcome your Department’s statement made yesterday, clarifying that local authorities have powers to take initiatives of this kind using Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders and similar procedures. Our organisations would, however, urge you to go further and provide a clear positive ministerial statement encouraging local highway authorities to consider implementing temporary initiatives of this kind. That would give local authorities the confidence to quickly implement measures, enabling safe cycling and walking within the Government’s social distancing guidelines.

In discussion with NHS colleagues, we know that these measures would have a positive impact in encouraging more health workers to cycle to work and have the added benefit of providing safe segregation or protection from motor traffic.

Finally, post the current lockdown restrictions, a large proportion of the UK population will again be moving around towns and cities, but hesitant to use public transport where there is a greater risk of transmission. In order to mitigate against a second wave influx of Coronavirus cases, we feel it prudent to plan ahead and implement these temporary measures now for key workers but also to allow the wider population to travel by bicycle or by foot in the short term as lockdown restrictions lift.

We ask for your prompt and public encouragement of local authorities to support these initiatives. That way, we can quickly enable active travel by our NHS heroes and the key workers who are helping the country through this crisis.

Yours sincerely

Will Butler-Adams
CEO, Brompton Bicycle

Co-signed

Paul Tuohy, Chief Executive, Cycling UK
Dr Ian Basnett, Director of Public Health, Barts Health NHS Trust
Julie Harrington, CEO, British Cycling
Xavier Brice, CEO, Sustrans
Phillip Darnton, Chair, The Bicycle Association
Tompion Platt, Director of Advocacy and Engagement, The Ramblers
Dr Ashok Sinha, CEO, London Cycling Campaign