5. Active travel and mobility
During lockdown, many people turned to walking, wheeling and cycling to exercise or to make journeys that may have previously involved vehicles or public transport. The encouragement of walking and cycling can help to alleviate pressure on public transport, which may be affected by physical distancing requirements. As well as providing safety, health and wellbeing benefits for individuals, active travel can also reduce pollution and motor vehicle traffic, which can further increase its attractiveness.
5.1 The benefits of improved active travel
Whilst this Safer Public Places Document is a practical guide to highlight the various issues that require to be considered now in terms of physical distancing and management of busy public areas, it opens up the possibilities for change over the longer-term.
The period since the lockdown has seen some evidence that more people are cycling and jogging for leisure and health, as well as regularly walking and wheeling for exercise. Walking, wheeling and cycling can also be an important way for many people to access local services. Many of these behavioural changes, if they were to continue beyond the present period, would be beneficial for individual health and wellbeing, as well as for global and local environments, by helping to reduce the need to travel and, in turn, lowering climate emissions and air pollution.
In considering the physical interventions necessary at this time, it is important to consider the opportunities that could be taken now which would encourage and support a culture of positive active travel behaviour in the future.
5.2 Wider accessibility and inclusion
Taking an inclusive approach to any required interventions is essential. New interventions in streets and public spaces can be disorientating for some people, particularly for disabled people and older people who may experience additional challenges in accessing local facilities or work.
It is important to consider the needs of all street users, particularly disabled people and older people, when planning new measures. Disabled people require specific measures to allow them to safely navigate street areas, such as dropped kerbs and tactile markings.
Ensuring that local centres are connected to wider movement networks in safe and accessible ways is important. This can help to promote active travel options, reducing car journeys and the reliance on public transport.
A range of issues to support the needs of disabled people and older people are contained throughout this guidance. Some of the key issues to consider are set out below.
Delivering an inclusive environment
- Establish a pedestrian corridor that is free of obstacles with access to dropped kerbs and tactile paving provided where required.
- Provide regular, safe, formal and informal road crossing points.
- Ensure that any additional signage or markings provide colour and tonal contrast to enable accessibility.
- Provide seating to meet the needs of disabled people and older people, who may not be able to stand for long, in the provision for queuing.
- Operating times that prioritise certain groups, such as older people and disabled people, may reduce the requirement for queuing for vulnerable groups.
- Segregate pedestrians from cyclists wherever possible, to reduce potential conflict between street users. This is particularly important for visually impaired people
- Maintain access to parking for disabled people when considering changes to parking arrangements and street layouts.
- It is important that Equality Impact Assessments (EQIA's) be undertaken when developing proposals to ensure that any new interventions address consider implications for people with one or more of the protected characteristics. Whilst the EQIA should be proportionate there is a need to consider the context of any intervention(s) against the needs of the general equality duty as set out in section 149 of the Equality Act 2010.
- Consider the needs of workers, in particular disabled people and older people, when developing any interventions.
- Consultation and engagement with disabled people, access panels and disability organisations will support measures to ensure that the needs of disabled people are addressed.
- Monitor the effectiveness and impact of any measures implemented, engaging with relevant groups and individuals to ensure that inclusion and accessibility requirements are supported.
5.3 Scotland's Transport Transition Plan
Scotland's Transport Transition Plan will continue to be developed by Transport Scotland as the situation changes, and will:-
- inform passengers about when and how to safely access public transport; support management of travel demand;
- reinforce broader messages on physical distancing and discourage unnecessary travel; and
- inform passengers and road users of busy areas and times to encourage alternative choices.
Importantly, the Transport Transition Plan also aims to sustain behavioural changes, including the encouragement of active travel options and staggering journeys to avoid peak times, Transport Scotland recognises that walking and cycling trips have increased as people stay in their local areas for services and physical activity. The rise in the use of walking, wheeling and cycling will be encouraged by Transport Scotland throughout all of the phases of Scotland's route map.
5.4 Temporary active travel infrastructure
Sustrans Scotland 'Spaces for People' initiative
To better enable physical distancing, the Scottish Government has funded an infrastructure programme for pop-up walking and cycling routes or temporary improvements to existing routes. This is supported by a package of guidance and support to local authorities from Transport Scotland, MACS and Sustrans Scotland for improvements such as widened pavements and cycle lanes.
Across the world, cities have seen increased rates of cycling as the number of car journeys have declined due to COVID-19 restrictions - and many cities have responded to this by reallocating road space to better enable this shift and make it safer for people who choose to walk, wheel or cycle for essential trips or for physical activity.
Every year, Transport Scotland and Sustrans Scotland run the 'Places for Everyone' active travel infrastructure initiative - and we know the impact of COVID-19 means that local authorities will not have the capacity to design and apply for complex multi-year infrastructure programmes due to the necessary focus on responding to the outbreak. As such, £30 million has been repurposed from the 'Places for Everyone' budget to deliver the new 'Spaces for People' (SfP) initiative with no match funding from local authorities required, while continuing to support previously committed projects. Once SfP reaches full subscription, there are a number of ongoing active travel programmes which support and promote walking and cycling. Further information on these can be found on the Transport Scotland website.
The following diagrams show examples of reallocating space within typical Scottish high streets. These principles and interventions can be applied in rural towns as well as busier urban locations:
Temporary Cycleways and Queuing
1. Utilise carriageways and reallocated road space to introduce safe temporary cycle lanes.
2. Implement temporary bike parking where possible.
3. Ensure appropriate safety measures are in place for clear segregation between traffic lanes, cycleway and pedestrian footways.
4. Allocate appropriate space for queuing.
5. A clear, unobstructed route should be maintained for pedestrians on existing footways, with particular consideration given to the needs of disabled people.
Extended Pedestrian Space and Clear Footways
1. Utilise existing carriageways to widen footways for extended pedestrian space, providing additional space for queuing.
2. A clear, unobstructed route, with access on and off, should be maintained for pedestrians on existing footways, with particular consideration given to the needs of disabled people.
3. Ensure appropriate safety measures are in place for clear segregation between traffic lanes, cycleway and pedestrian areas.
1. Allocate and provide appropriate space for queuing.
2. A clear, unobstructed route should be maintained for pedestrians on existing footways, with particular consideration given to the requirements of those with wheeling and mobility needs, visual impairment or other disabilities. The need for special consideration with regard to avoiding negative impacts upon disabled people also applies to the provision of external restaurant service, as below.
3. Allow for restaurants, cafés and eateries to occupy carriageways/on-street parking bays for external service. A balanced approach to the use of space should be taken in order to maintain appropriate areas for public activities.
4. Ensure appropriate safety measures are in place to make clear segregation between occupied areas, cycleways, pedestrian footways and traffic/movement lanes.
5. Implement bike parking where possible.
Reallocating Street Space
1. Close appropriate roads to vehicular access to allow free movement through street. Allow service and emergency access only.
2. A clear, unobstructed route should be maintained for pedestrians on existing footways, with particular consideration given to the needs of disabled people.
3. Allocate and provide appropriate space for queuing.
4. Allow for retailers, restaurants, and eateries to occupy external street space for trade and service, ensuring that a balanced approach maintains appropriate areas for public activities.
5. Implement bike parking where possible.
6. Ensure appropriate safety measures are in place to make clear segregation between occupied areas and traffic/movement lanes.
Manchester City Council has created an enhanced space for pedestrians and people on bikes on Deansgate, enabling visitors and workers to physically distance more easily as they return to shops and offices in this thriving part of the city centre.
The road closure will initially take place under a temporary 'experimental' traffic order, allowing officers to assess the impacts of the measure and make any necessary changes, with a view to potentially bringing forward a permanent closure of part of Deansgate. The temporary closure will be carried out using removable bollards, which can be taken down over a short prescribed period once per weekday, allowing windows for local businesses to accept deliveries. In other busy areas of Manchester, available space for pedestrians is set to be increased by using heavy-duty 'Rhino' barriers to create extended footways. The planned intervention will allow people to walk from public transport hubs to nearby shops or their place of work, while observing physical distancing guidance.
In Leicester, the council has created a number of temporary cycle lanes to help create a safe route for people cycling around the city during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The City Council has coned off a 500m section of Saffron Lane between Aylestone Road and Hawkins Road, near Saffron Lane sports stadium; and introduced a 500m long section of temporary cycle track on Aylestone Road, between Almond Road and the former Granby Halls site.
The temporary cycle lane will help workers from the Saffron Lane and Aylestone areas access their work premises, as well as supporting access for workers commuting to and from the nearby Leicester Royal Infirmary. The council is looking at other locations around the city which could be suitable for cycling and walking routes to link up existing sections of cycling and walking infrastructure under the city's Connecting Leicester programme.