With the easing of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, many European countries and their cities are facing similar challenges, such as the return of homeworkers to their workplace. While passenger transport mode share differs from city to city, public transport is a backbone for work trips in all countries. However, physical distancing measures limit public transport capacity as passengers must maintain physical distance from one another - and this must be enabled by transport providers.
The UK government announced plans for answering the challenge: a £2 billion package mainly for cycling and walking. Acknowledging that the public transport system could only carry around 10% of passenger volume before the pandemic, a first step will see pop-up bike lanes with protected space for cycling, wider pavements as well as streets dedicated to bicycles and buses. Moreover, the government creates guidance for England’s councils to cater for an increased number of cyclists and pedestrians. Motivational activities aim to increase the effectiveness of the cycle to work scheme and a new voucher scheme for bike repair and maintenance. Cross-sector thinking and collaboration are part of the deal: part of the funds are used for the National Health System (NHS) with general practitioners (GPs) being asked to prescribe cycling in order to improve fitness levels in addition to social distancing due to COVID-19.
The plans also include other complementary measures, such as;
- zero-emission city centre's accessible to bicycles and electric vehicles only,
- £10 million for residential e-car charging points and fixing road damages like potholes,
- enlargement of e-scooter trials from the original 4 zones to applicability for all municipalities.
Plans are already at hand: Greater Manchester plans to create 150 miles of protected bicycle tracks and Transport for London aims for a “bike tube” network above the underground lines.
The £2 billion fund will put walking and cycling ‘at the heart’ of the government’s transport policy, he said, with a national cycling plan expected to be unveiled in June.
Transport Minister Grant Shapps said a 5% increase in cycling can cover for 8 million fewer car journeys, nine million fewer rail journeys and 13 million fewer bus journeys. Cycling and walking are put at the heart of the transport policy with the national cycling plan coming in June 2020. Measures to improve roads and public transport for those who can’t walk or cycle to work will be announced shortly.
Click here for more information from the UK government.
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Article published first at Metro on 09 May 2020.