Norwich city councillors from the Green Party have suggested a reduction in the space used by cars so cyclists and pedestrians are able to socially distance on roads.
It comes as the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced a £250 million emergency travel fund with a raft of proposals that include emergency “pop-up” bike lanes, decreasing speed limits and shutting off roads completely for cars, in particular around schools. The Government also floated the idea of permitting the use of e-scooters in cities around the UK. The fund is the first part of a £2 billion investment, which in turn is part of a £5 billion investment into cycling and buses announced in February.
Mr Shapps said: “During this crisis, millions of people have discovered cycling – whether for exercise or as a means of safe, socially-distanced transport.”
He added: “We know cars will continue to remain vital for many, but as we look to the future we must build a better country with greener travel habits, cleaner air and healthier communities.”
The Government hopes the new measures will promote more environmentally friendly commuting and a reduction of crowding on public transport.
Yet Green Party councillors in Norwich say that owing to the difficulties of social distancing many people will already look to different forms of travel as opposed to public transport. They say it is therefore important to make sure alternative transport options are available or face Norwich becoming “clogged with cars”.
Jamie Osborn, Green Party councillor for the Norwich city centre’s Mancroft ward, said: “These measures will not only help keep people safe from coronavirus, they will also protect children from air pollution, which has been shown to increase the risk of coronavirus. In addition, making it easier to walk and cycle now will have benefits for tackling the climate emergency.”
The Green Party councillor for the Thorpe Hamlet ward, Ben Price, added: “It is tremendously important that local councils ensure people who need to travel can do so safely. These necessary changes should be a priority for Norfolk and Norwich councils, so that we are ready to reopen as a city without undue risk.”