Walking

All UK governments have introduced emergency funding for walking and cycling in response to the pandemic. 

But with the column inches focusing on two wheels rather than two feet, we set out to shine a light on some of the best infrastructure changes for walking happening across the country in the first of our #AndWalking webinars - held on 21 September.

Here we summarise some of the main points emerging from our discussion.

Click here to view the full webinar at the bottom of this page. 

Our panel

Mary Creagh

Mary Creagh, CEO, Living Streets
(Chair)

Caro Wild

Cllr Caro Wild, Cardiff Council

Richard Nickson

Dr Richard Nickson, Transport for Greater Manchester

Sarah Berry

Sarah Berry, Lambeth Living Streets Group

Quoting Victor Hugo, Mary Creagh opened the webinar by saying "There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come!". And walking has never been more at the forefront as we strive to build back better. With that in mind, she asked what was happening for walking in the areas where our panellists work.    

What action are you taking in your area?

Cardiff

Presented by Councillor Caro Wild, Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning & Transport Cardiff Council.

Safer streets

The first thing we sought to do was make streets safer. We were already well on our way to becoming a 20mph city but the demand was higher than ever during those initial stages of lockdown.

Pop up infrastructure

We’ve introduced pop-up cycle lanes in response to the demand for safe and segregated spaces from new cyclists.

School Streets

We had already embarked on a programme of School Streets – closing the road outside schools to vehicles during drop off and pick up time. Since schools have returned, we’ve got around 20-30 new School Streets in action. Making roads outside schools safer is an easy sell and the one thing we should be seeing rolled out across the country. We’ll look back in years to come and wonder how we ever allowed huge vehicles to share space with children going to school in the first place.

A new heart of the city

We have a beautiful castle in the middle of Cardiff (pictured) which has been spoilt for years by being separated off by a dual carriageway. There was a need to create space for physical distancing and outdoor space for people to dine. By closing the road to through traffic, we've changed this space from being one of the most polluted roads in Wales to a place where people feel safe and happy to spend time – a new heart of the city.

Cardiff castle
Image provided by Caro Wild

Greater Manchester

Presented by Dr Richard Nickson, Director of Cycling & Walking, Transport for Greater Manchester and Beth Sutcliffe, GM Walking.  

Space for walking

There was a real incentive to bring walking and cycling to the forefront in the light of the pandemic. Working with Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester and Chris Boardman, the Cycling and Walking Commissioner, we introduced pop up infrastructure. Each borough received a share of £5 million funding for active travel measures, including temporary pavement extensions and town centre improvements.

Evaluation

It’s incredibly important to see how these measures are affecting people to help bring about long-term change. We introduced agile measures to look at how people view walking and cycling with our Travel Demand survey showing that experiences during lockdown seem to have had a positive impact on attitudes to active travel. Nearly a fifth of respondents said they felt safer walking and cycling due to less traffic and nearly half claimed that walking and cycling during lockdown will prompt them to do so more often when restrictions ease.

Legacy

We need to lock in the benefits we experienced from having more people walking and cycling during lockdown. However, we are already seeing a return to pre-lockdown levels of traffic in some areas and questions are starting to be asked across the UK. Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and physical distancing measures can bring about long-term change. There have been sustained changes in the Trafford area because of the retention of road space reallocation. The next step is looking at how we make this more long-term.

Gm walking fest

What is GM Walking?

GM Walking supports an increase in physical activity in Greater Manchester. Support and investment in walking recognises its role and ability to support the most inactive to get active, in a free and and accessible way.

Adapting to lockdown

We had to adapt our whole Walking Region offer to be relevant for the new world we were living in. Highlighting two the ways we’ve done that:

1. Empowering Communities

We’re working with voluntary organisations and communities to support them to implement their own schemes to help them walk more. GMCVO will be giving out a total of £225,000 in grants to VCSE organisations to support increased walking, with 69 small and medium grants and four partnership grants already allocated so far.

2. Let’s Walk Fest

GM Walking Festival aims to celebrate and promote walking. Last year’s festival in May (2019) comprised 429 walking activities. Due to Covid-19, the May Walking Festival was cancelled. Instead, our virtual festival ‘Let’s Walk Fest’ has been developed and will run from 12 – 25 October 2020.

Walking Region
Images provided by TfGM and GM Walking

Looking ahead in Greater Manchester

The Active Lives data will give an impression of how COVID has affected walking in Greater Manchester. We’ll be attempting to fill data gaps by expanding monitoring capabilities around walking and cycling, using innovative data analytics based on mobile data and video-based analytics.

We’re also looking to engage with more disadvantaged communities who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Download Richard's presentation

Download Beth's presentation

Lambeth, London

Presented by Sarah Berry, Lambeth Living Streets Group  

What are LTNs and why are they needed in Railton?

The Railton Low Traffic Neighbourhood is one of five introduced in Lambeth. LTNs aim to undo the influence of SatNavs re-routing vehicles through local communities and neighbourhoods, making it an unsafe and unpleasant rat-run. Making the streets where we live safer and nicer for walking is particularly important in Railton where 60% of residents don’t have access to a car.

What we did

As members of Lambeth Living Streets Group and the community, there were three things we focussed on to demonstrate to the community and the council that the LTN was something we were enjoying and wanted to keep.

1. Show support

People are more likely to complain about what they don’t like rather than say what they do, so we’ve created an environment which encourages people to celebrate where they live.

Our ‘We Love Railton’ templates have been coloured in by local children and displayed in homes across the neighbourhood.

The first things popping up were red ‘Road Closed’ signs. However, we didn’t view the street as closed, but rather open to people walking, wheeling, cycling and playing. I worked with some local people to redesign the signage to celebrate the new possibilities the streets hosted. These signs have been received really positively. After making the image available for free download, we've seen councils adopt them across the country. 

Road open sign

2. Inform 

The Lambeth Twitter account has been vital in making sure people are informed of what’s happening with the LTN.  

We’ve written Twitter ‘threads’ showing the benefits of the LTN, from reduced access time for emergency vehicles and information on School Streets, through to breaking down the complex information about disappearing traffic and traffic evaporation that comes with LTNs 

We letter dropped 5,000 leaflets for those not on social media, sharing what an LTN is. As part of this we included a link to a survey which found that 75% of the community were supportive of the LTN’s introduction. We plan to re-do these surveys regularly to monitor attitudes. 

3. Celebrate community 

A lot of people against these schemes are not from the communities they serve. They might be using the neighbourhood to cut through to where they want to get to. We wanted to demonstrate that the supporters were the people who live, work and play in the community.  

We wanted to adapt the streets so that people took ownership and knew it was theirs. We’ve installed benches on planters to encourage people to stop and chat and created colourful areas. 

Colourful streets
Images provided by Sarah Berry

 

 

Download Sarah's presentation

Any questions?

The floor was then opened to questions with the panel tackling how we amplify the voice of the silent majority, the backlash against LTNs and cycling on the pavement. See how the panel responded from about 32 minutes in - video below. 

The final comment on the webinar chat was someone simply saying 'Let's do this again'. 

The good news, we will be! Become a Living Streets Member and you will receive exclusive invites to the rest of our And Walking series of webinars.

Become a member of Living Streets

Watch the webinar in full