It is increasingly clear that social (or rather, physical) distancing will be necessary for several more months, even after the COVID-19 lockdown ends. It is also increasingly clear that most pavements, footpaths and cycleways are not wide enough for people to maintain safe distances. Recognising this, cities around the world are acting.
A simple intervention is to use cones or barriers to create a protected corridor along the edge of road for pedestrians or as a cycleway. If it doesn’t limit vehicle access or block parking bays, this can be done without delay. Otherwise, a Temporary or Experimental Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) can be made with seven days’ notice.
Another intervention is to re-programme pedestrian crossing signals to change automatically without having to press a button. Where vehicle detectors are installed, lights can rest at green for pedestrians when there is little motor traffic.
Fewer vehicles are now parking on pavements, because stopping in the road doesn’t cause significant congestion. This will change once people start returning to work. Therefore, now would be a good time to start making Experimental TROs to ban pavement parking. This has to be done on a street by street basis under current legislation. Loading bays should be marked out in the same way as bus stops at safe locations, with restrictions on the hours and duration of stops to minimise disruption to motor traffic.
Now would also be an ideal time to trial more partial road blocks, permeable to people walking and cycling, to create safer neighbourhoods. We could be even more adventurous and trial one-way streets to reduce congestion on bus routes.
The County Council has been slow off the mark, recently stating that officers are still looking at data and talking with their maintenance contractor. A more local and agile Highway Authority, as recommended in our column last week, would be experimenting with tactical urbanism already – like Leicester and Lambeth.
We must work together to keep everyone safe. Camcycle is leading a Spaces to Breathe campaign to pressure local authorities to act. I urge you to support it and share your ideas.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 6 May 2020.
- Spaces to Breathe campaign (Camcycle)
- Announcement of investment in walking and cycling (UK Government)
- Fast Urban Change – How To Guide (Urban Design Group)
- Practical materials for tactical urbanism (The Ranty Highwayman)
- Community Focused Tactical Urbanism Toolkit (New Union)
- UK examples of tactical urbanism (Greenpeace)
- City Transportation COVID-19 Action Updates (NACTO)