Coronavirus: Cyclists praise councils for 'prioritising' pedestrians by shutting streets to cars during lockdown

A cyclist rides across the deserted junction of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street in London, England, on March 28, 2020. The UK today began its first weekend under the covid-19 coronavirus lockdown conditions imposed by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday evening, under which people can leave their homes only for buying essentials, exercising, providing care and, if unavoidable, to travel to and from work. UK deaths currently stand at 1,019, after 260 more were reported to have died over the past 24 hours. (Photo by David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A cyclist rides across the deserted junction of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street in London. (Getty)

Cyclists have praised the idea reportedly being pursued by a number of councils which would see cars banned from built-up areas to encourage more people to exercise during the coronavirus lockdown.

Local authorities in London, Brighton and Manchester are said to be weighing up whether to ban vehicles from smaller roads to create more space for pedestrians, according to The Times. The proposals would see some small streets being turned into temporary cycle lanes.

Social media users voiced their support for the scheme on Tuesday, with many praising the councils for “protecting and prioritising” pedestrians.

A woman walks down a deserted Deansgate in Manchester after Prime Minister Boris Johnson has put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Manchester is one of the cities where councils are weighing up closing some roads to cars. (PA)

Former Olympic and Tour de France cyclist Chris Boardman tweeted: “If you want people to stay apart and not use public transport, we have no choice but to protect, prioritise and enable those not driving.”

While several local Liberal Democrat groups also signalled their approval for the planned pedestrianisation.

“This is a great idea,” Eltham Liberal Democrats said, “A number of local authorities are considering plans to close off streets to vehicles in order to create extra space for cyclists and joggers during locdown. Could ⁦Greenwich Council look into this too?”

Greenwich Borough Lib Dems also tweeted: “This should also help with the cars who are currently speeding on these quieter than usual streets.”

Stephen Edwards, director of policy and communications at Living Streets, a charity that promotes walking, told The Times: “This pandemic is making us all realise how much public space is given over to individual car use rather than walking and cycling.

 A nearly deserted Strand St during lockdown due to corona virus pandemic. United Kingdom Health Ministry recorded a total of 84,279 infections and 10,612 death since the beginning of the outbreak. (Photo by Rahman Hassani / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
A nearly deserted view of the Strand in London during lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. (PA)

“Many of our footways are too narrow. This has long been a problem for people with wheelchairs, buggies and other mobility aids but now it’s affecting everyone’s ability to practise social distancing.

“Cities worldwide are starting to reallocate road space to allow people to move more freely.”

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People using Victoria Park, in east London, after it was reopened with reduced opening hours and new control measures in place during the coronavirus outbreak.
People using Victoria Park, in east London, after it was reopened with reduced opening hours and new control measures in place during the coronavirus outbreak. (PA)

Over the weekend, Manchester became the first city in the UK to close a street to vehicles during the lockdown. Cones were laid down the middle of Tib Street in central Manchester to create two temporary cycle or running lanes.

Brighton on the south coast and Hackney council in London is also said to be drawing up a shortlist of streets in the borough that will be turned into car-free zones to give residents places to exercise.

The London authority is planning to use plants and bollards on particular streets to create cycling lanes while maintaining access for emergency vehicles.

There has been a sharp drop in the number of vehicles on the road because of the lockdown conditions imposed to control the spread of coronavirus.

Overall, traffic has declined by as much as three quarters compared with normal levels.

The call comes after Dominic Raab, who is deputising for Boris Johnson, said the government does not expect to relax or lift the coronavirus lockdown later this week.

Strollers enjoy the sunny and warm weather whilst they keep their distance after the coronavirus outbreak and lockdown in Brighton, England, Saturday, April 11, 2020. in London, Saturday, April 11, 2020. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Strollers enjoy the sunny and warm Easter weekend weather whilst they keep their distance in Brighton. (AP)

The foreign secretary said on Monday that there are some "positive signs" from the data that show "we are starting to win this struggle".

"We don't expect to make any changes to the measures currently in place at that point and we won't until we're confident, as confident as we realistically can be, that any such changes can be safely made," he said.

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