One of the biggest issues with social distancing right now is having to avoid people walking down often narrow pavements on the way to shops or exercise.
For some that means constantly crossing the road in busy areas and for others simply walking in the middle of the road.
If you’re unlucky you’ll forget (or move as much as possible) and still someone will walk past you without giving any space and coughing as they go.
With that in mind, guidance to councils has changed in recent days to make it easier to widen pedestrian space by blocking off parts of roads to traffic and allocating areas to pedestrians. It’s also easier to close roads entirely and install cycle lanes.
This follows a recent post on this site looking at the paucity of space for pedestrians in many areas, and how planned development in New Cross and Woolwich seek to eat away even further at paving.
What the new measures has meant in some places is simply coning off areas of roads where pavements are narrow and people in high density. High Streets and shopping parades mainly. It’s easy and cheap to do.
In south east London obvious areas that spring to mind where it could be attempted are Greenwich, Blackheath and Plumstead.
Dr Rachel Lee from Living Streets stated:
“Loosening up the usual rules surrounding Traffic Regulation Orders will make it much easier and quicker for local authorities to create space for people to walk and cycle safely during lockdown.
This pandemic is making us all realise how much public space is given over to individual car use rather than walking and cycling.
Filtered neighbourhoods, banning cars from certain roads and tackling pavement parking can all help make our daily exercise easier and safer.
Towns and cities worldwide are starting to reallocate road space to allow people to move more freely and ensure people can carry out their daily exercise at a safe distance from others and free from road danger. Now we can start to follow their lead.”
So far I’ve not heard of any action in many areas of south east London. Have I missed any?
As stated by Living Streets, many world cities have been pretty radical and entirely closed streets or limited access to public transport or emergency access only.
This could also be a time for some radical action for long term changes to reorganise congested city streets for those on foot. Now, more than any other time, is a period that the public could be willing to embrace change. I’ve never seen so many cyclists and families out together on bikes. It shows that when general traffic reduces, people will cycle if they feel it’s safe.
The DfT’s new measures are only temporary, and there’s not even much sign yet that authorities will even use them despite obvious health benefits, but if they do it could be the start of some intriguing long term changes.