How do we travel sustainably, keep fit and stay safe during the UK lockdown?

In this #walkingfromhome blog, London's Walking and Cycling Commissioner Will Norman explains why it's more important than ever that we provide space for walking and cycling.


Will Norman

Author Tom Vanderbilt recently wrote in an article for the Atlantic that “today’s livability is tomorrow’s resilience.” This has always been true, but the current crisis has highlighted this in a very stark way. As we slowly emerge from lockdown, we need to be thinking about how we embed this liveability and resilience in our city.

It’s clear that social distancing will be a part of our lives for the foreseeable future, which means that many people will continue to work from home. For those who can’t, we need to provide options for them to safely travel to work. However, with the safe carrying capacity of our public transport network still around one-fifth of pre-crisis levels it’s clear that many of these journeys will need to be made by other means.

In my eyes there are two alternatives for people who need to travel during this recovery stage: either they will walk or cycle, or they will get back in their cars. If people switch even a fraction of the journeys that used to be public transport to cars, London will grind to a halt. I don’t think anyone wants a London with roads so congested that essential freight deliveries and emergency vehicles are unable to serve the city. On top of that, we absolutely cannot replace one public health crisis with another, be that one borne of inactivity or pollution.

So how do we avoid an influx of cars on our streets? We must enable and encourage walking and cycling for those who are able to. The Mayor’s recently announced Streetspace plan is providing temporary measures to do this. We’ve already widened pavements on high streets across the city to help enable local trips for shopping, and we know that, once restrictions are lifted, walking to access other local services will be a key driver of our recovery. However, it’s clear that, going forward, provisions for active travel need to be a core part of how we design and build our cities.

During lockdown my family and I have been treasuring our daily walks to our local parks. It feels like a completely different environment than we Londoners are used to – the air is clearer, and you can actually hear the birds singing.

A few days ago, on one of these walks, my daughter said, “You know, Dad, the one good thing about the lockdown is how empty the streets are.” And she’s right.

Clean air and safe streets – I want this to be my kids’ future. And the only way we’ll be able to build it is if City Hall, councils, communities and campaigners work together. I look forward to creating this future with all of you.

Mind the gap!

Social distancing

Distancing needs more space!

Live in England? Email your council and ask them to make walking safer during the Covid-19 lockdown.

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