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.
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.
Presented by Councillor Caro Wild, Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning & Transport Cardiff Council.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Presented by Sarah Berry, Lambeth Living Streets Group