Please also let your local councillor know the importance of rapid improvements for walking and cycling – you can use the cycling UK template email.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone’s lives and Harrow has been particularly hard hit, with 241 deaths by 17 April, and the sixth highest rate of COVID-19 deaths in London.
During the current lockdown, people have been enjoying the quieter streets by walking and cycling. However, when businesses and schools start to reopen, motor traffic will increase substantially unless urgent steps are taken to protect space for walking and cycling. Motor traffic would have a detrimental impact on people’s health, and would increase air pollution, which is a risk factor for mortality in COVID-19.
The capacity of public transport is severely restricted because of social distancing, and overcrowding on public transport risks increases the risk of further COVID-19 outbreaks and potentially thousands of more deaths.
This means that a major increase in walking and cycling is essential. It will be the only way to provide safe transport for large numbers of people and restore economic activity in London post lockdown. Many cities worldwide are repurposing motor vehicle space for walking and cycling, for example Paris is building 650km of temporary cycle lanes, and the Mayor of London has recently announced the ‘Streetspace’ plan which will involve:
- The “rapid construction” of a strategic cycling network, using temporary materials, with new routes, aimed at reducing crowding on public transport.
- A “complete transformation” of local town centres so that people can walk and cycle where possible, including widening footways on high streets so that people can safely queue outside shops.
- Reducing traffic on residential streets and creating “low-traffic neighbourhoods”.
On 9 May, the Government published new statutory guidance requiring local authorities to urgently reallocate road space for walking and cycling, both to encourage active travel and to enable social distancing during restart. The guidance states that “Measures should be taken as swiftly as possible, and in any event within weeks, given the urgent need to change travel habits before the restart takes full effect.“
We wrote to Harrow council at the end of March asking them to make urgent improvements to help people travel safely during the COVID-19 crisis. They replied that they were unable to do so at the time as council staff were fully occupied with dealing with urgent COVID-19 issues.
We are still awaiting news of a COVID-19 transport action plan from Harrow Council.
In his latest message to residents, the leader of the council, Graham Henson, recognises that more people have been walking and cycling recently, and urges Harrow residents not to drive unless necessary, but recognises that car traffic is increasing. We therefore urge Harrow council to take measures now to enable people to walk and cycle safely over the coming weeks and months, when people will be travelling more and motor traffic will otherwise increase to dangerous levels.
We will compile the list of suggestions and urge the council to implement them as soon as possible.