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Coronavirus pandemic: Tracking the global outbreak

BBC London News Feed - 3 hours 4 min ago
Key maps and charts explaining how the respiratory virus has spread around the world and how it is being dealt with.

Coronavirus: Death of Belly Mujinga 'not linked to spit attack'

BBC London News Feed - 3 hours 39 min ago
Police decide to take no further action over the death of Belly Mujinga, who died with coronavirus.

Coronavirus: Police issue 17,000 fines for lockdown breaches

BBC London News Feed - 4 hours 19 min ago
Figures show fewer people have been fined since lockdown rules were eased in England.

Westminster announces space for walking and cycling - Guest blog

London Cycling - 5 hours 12 min ago

 


This blog post is from Westminster Healthy Streets, originally published here. Westminster City Council have released their plans to “get the economy moving again” by reallocating space for walking, cycling and social distancing on their streets. See the announcement here. Will these plans prevent traffic flooding back and keep the clean air and all-age active travel Westminster has experienced during lockdown? What’s clear is the huge demand for healthy streets: “In just over one week, the city council has received over 500 requests from residents and businesses for temporary measures from right across the city.” Our own interactive map drew over 1,000 suggestions to make walking and cycling better in Westminster (sent out to all ward councillors last week). We’ve now added layers to the map to summarise the suggestions and sketch out strategic measures like low traffic neighbourhoods and cycle routes.


 

 

See the final version of our map here.

Our take on the council’s plans

In short, there’s much to welcome - including school streets, wider pavements, pop-up bike lanes and street closures in Covent Garden. But more will be needed to keep traffic low and make active travel safe and direct enough to replace public transport. The bold measures seen elsewhere in Central London to create miles of car-free streets are missing in Westminster. And the principle of reducing through traffic to create low traffic neighbourhoods, now being widely adopted by other boroughs, is not even mentioned. This is despite the Department for Transport singling out “point closures” (preventing through traffic) as the quickest and cheapest way of reallocating road space for active travel.

Here’s our take on some of the main themes.

West End: Bike lanes and wider pavements

The announcement says: “Oxford Street, Regent Street and Piccadilly will, from this weekend, see measures to widen pavements, change traffic lanes into pedestrian walkways, install signage and guidance on social distancing as well as establishing pop-up cycle lanes.” Regent Street will have two of its four lanes for motor traffic reallocated to people. This is a good start - but shouldn’t Regent Street close to all traffic in business hours, to give shoppers maximum space for social distancing? And for Oxford Street, a better arrangement is surely restricting traffic to buses and bikes in business hours. Pop-up bike lanes on Piccadilly are very good news and will create an essential cycle alternative to the Tube, linking the temporary bike lanes on Park Lane with Piccadilly Circus.

But clarity is needed. The Evening Standard had to ask City Hall to confirm the plans for pop-up bike lanes on these three streets, as the rest of the announcement seemed to forget about them. And the draft strategy circulated last week to ward councillors only described combined bus and bike lanes on Piccadilly and Oxford Street.

Closures in Covent Garden, but what about Soho?

The plan is to extend Covent Garden’s existing timed street closures to Henrietta Street, Maiden Lane, Floral Street and James Street “using temporary measures.” This is very welcome, but street and area closures are even more vital in Soho, where narrower streets will make social distancing impossible if traffic remains. The council should take a low traffic neighbourhood approach to remove through traffic from both areas, then consider timed closures on specific streets with the help of local residents and businesses. Without this, it’s hard to see how Soho’s iconic restaurants, bars and cafes can survive.

Marylebone and Fitzrovia: bike lanes, but the rat running remains.

Portland Place will have pop-up bike lanes on both sides of the street. This is great news for one of Westminster’s most polluted wards and we hope that they will pave the way for permanently safe cycling. But cycle lanes on A-roads should be combined with low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) on either side to prevent rat running, keep air clean and make walking and cycling safe across the whole area. Low traffic neighbourhoods are needed in both Marylebone and Fitzrovia. Fitzrovia’s Neighbourhood Forum has produced a plan for one.

School streets

Westminster has an ambitious ‘school street’ programme, which makes streets walking and cycling only at school run hours, with about 20 schools in the pipeline. We strongly support this. School streets ensure children’s safety and clean air at the school gate and encourage a car-free school run. We hope that the council will also consider families’ whole journeys to school as well as their destination, since buses and tubes will be at low capacity, bus travel is no longer free for children, and parents switching to cars en masse would cause gridlock. Safe walking/cycling routes to school, via pop-up bike lanes and low traffic neighbourhoods, would make all the difference.

A safe cycle network?

The council promises “more cycle racks” which is very welcome and will be needed as thousands of journeys switch from public transport to bikes. It also announces “better links to the existing cycle networks”. This promise needs to be made good. Westminster’s cycle routes are not currently joined up into a safe, coherent network that can be used by all ages and abilities. The council will need to upgrade sub-standard routes like the Sussex Garden cycle tracks, which have no protection and are often parked on. It should address barriers to cycling like the confusing maze of one-way streets that forbid two-way cycling, many of which could be remedied with a simple sign. And finally - at the risk of repeating ourselves - low traffic neighbourhoods provide whole networks of streets where any age can cycle. This is a far better approach than the old ‘quietway’ programme.

Westminster must tackle its traffic

Finally, one key change Westminster needs to make - not just for Covid-19 now, but for healthy streets, air quality and climate in the future - is to restrict its through traffic. Motor traffic simply passing through Westminster should be kept to the strategic road network, and in between should be areas of access-only streets linked by sub-distributor roads. The whole of the West End could have healthy low-traffic streets using this principle - see the traffic circulation plan that transformed Ghent for one example.

 

Categories: London

DfT funding for London: make it fast, make it count

London Cycling - 9 hours 3 min ago

The Deputy Director of the Department of Transport (DfT), Rupert Furness, has written (for full letter click here) to all councils across London, as well as TfL (and seperately to all councils across England) to lay out funding streams for temporary walking and cycling schemes during the Covid-19 crisis and beyond, in a letter that makes clear how priorities have shifted. In the letter, Furness states that any scheme “that does not meaningfully alter the status quo on the road will not be funded.”

The letter is headed “Emergency Active Travel Funding Indicative Allocations” and is aimed at London councils and TfL, giving “indicative” details on funding. It represents again a big leap forward in DfT and the government’s strength of approach on active travel, saying walking and cycling will be vital in “helping us avoid overcrowding on public transport systems as we begin to open up parts of our economy. We have a window of opportunity to act now to embed walking and cycling as part of new long-term commuting habits and reap the associated health, air quality and congestion benefits.” 

Councils will need to not only be bold, however, but also move fast - DfT's deadline for first round funding bids is 5 June, and the implication is strongly further funding will depend on not only bids, but delivering on them in that first round.

Funding for London

From the previously announced initial £250 million for active travel across England, “£225 million will be provided directly to local transport authorities and London boroughs, while £25 million will help support cycle repair schemes.” It’s unclear yet whether any of that repair fund will be available for London.

Turning to London specifically, and for highways schemes, “London’s indicative share of the £225m will be £25 million over the rest of the financial year, with £5 million in the first tranche” but the letter also points out that TfL has had direct funding from the DfT, “£55 million of which is to be spent on active travel measures on both TfL and borough roads”. So that’s a £80m total pot.

For the first round of funding, the letter says each London borough gets £100,000 with “£1.7m to Transport for London”. However, all this funding is dependent on TfL and the boroughs being bold and acting fast.

Be bold, move fast, says DfT

Bold: “To receive any money under this or future tranches, boroughs and TfL will need to satisfy the Department that there are swift and meaningful plans in place to reallocate road space to cyclists and pedestrians, including on strategic corridors… Anything that does not meaningfully alter the status quo on the road will not be funded.”

Fast: “If work has not started within four weeks of receiving your allocation…  or has not been completed within eight weeks of starting, the Department will reserve the right to claw the funding back… This is also likely to have a material impact on your ability to secure any funding in tranche 2”. Deadline for bids for the first tranche? 5 June!

After that, moves will be made to make these schemes permanent. “The second tranche of £180m will be released later in the summer to enable authorities to install further, more permanent measures to cement cycling and walking habits.”

The priority: low traffic neighbourhoods & cycle tracks!

“The quickest and cheapest way of achieving this will normally be point closures. These can be of certain main roads (with exceptions for buses, access and for disabled people, and with other main roads kept free for through motor traffic); or of parallel side streets, if sufficiently direct to provide alternatives to the main road. Point closures can also be used to create low-traffic filtered neighbourhoods.

“Pop-up segregated cycle lanes will also be funded, but are likely to be more difficult to implement quickly. As the guidance states, they must use full or light segregation. We will also fund the swift implementation, using temporary materials, of existing cycle plans that involve the meaningful reallocation of road space.

“As the guidance makes clear, 20mph zones can form part of a package of measures, but will not be sufficient on their own.”

London councils are being directed that if they want money, they have until next Friday to put in initial plans – that filter out through motor traffic and build protected space for cycling, fast, if they want any money.

This is a huge win, once more, for LCC and supporters. As with the #StreetspaceLDN plan, our campaigning over years, behind the scenes and in establishing the value of approaches such as Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, is really paying off right now. So please, if you're not already, do become a member.

Categories: London

Coronavirus: What difference did lockdown make?

BBC London News Feed - 11 hours 35 min ago
Aerial shots show how the coronavirus pandemic changed the way we use public spaces.

Coronavirus: Is this the final hurrah for clap for carers?

BBC London News Feed - Thu, 05/28/2020 - 19:20
The UK applauds carers on Thursday evening for what the event organiser says could be the last time.

Coronavirus: London brothers together on the front line

BBC London News Feed - Thu, 05/28/2020 - 18:40
A London firefighter joins his paramedic brother to help fight coronavirus on the front line.

MPs to decide new method of voting in person

BBC London News Feed - Thu, 05/28/2020 - 18:33
Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg says traditional voting in corridors will need to be replaced.

Coronavirus: How the virus is hitting some harder than others

BBC London News Feed - Thu, 05/28/2020 - 17:29
The BBC’s Clive Myrie meets black and minority ethnic hospital staff and sees the impact the virus is having beyond the ward.

Coronavirus: London mayor says continue children's free travel

BBC London News Feed - Thu, 05/28/2020 - 16:58
Sadiq Khan says ending the scheme will hit London's poor hardest while increasing costs to boroughs.

British Airways stops flights to Leeds Bradford Airport

BBC London News Feed - Thu, 05/28/2020 - 15:47
The airline will no longer run a service connecting Leeds to London Heathrow.

Arsenal: Sir Chips Keswick retires as club chairman

BBC London News Feed - Thu, 05/28/2020 - 15:05
Sir Chips Keswick has retired as Arsenal chairman after seven years in the role.

Coronavirus: Harrods hits the shopping mall to stop congestion

BBC London News Feed - Thu, 05/28/2020 - 11:06
The department store will open at a nearby Westfield centre to ensure social distancing.

Championship: Two Fulham players among three coronavirus positive tests

BBC London News Feed - Thu, 05/28/2020 - 10:42
Two Fulham players are among three individuals who have tested positive for coronavirus in the latest round of Championship testing.

Bethnal Green fire: Four rescued from flats

BBC London News Feed - Thu, 05/28/2020 - 06:44
Firefighters spent two hours bringing the east London blaze under control.

The photographer bringing his community together

BBC London News Feed - Thu, 05/28/2020 - 06:33
Misan Harriman normally photographs celebrities but has turned to capturing his local community.

BBC Proms hope to include two weeks of live concerts at Royal Albert Hall

BBC London News Feed - Thu, 05/28/2020 - 04:19
The two-month classical music festival will combine archive recordings and live performances.