What a week! Announcements over transport and active travel came fast and often throughout the week. First, the Department for Transport with its network management’s statutory guidance. Then Brent Council provided more details about its COVID-19 Transport response and proposed emergency measures response. Finally Transport for London unveiled its Streetspace plan.
Department for Transport
On Saturday 9 May, the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps confirmed funding and announced new measures. The government expects local councils to implement these as “swiftly as possible, and in any event within weeks, given the urgent need to change travel habits before the restart takes full effect” to enable physical distancing as people gradually emerge from lockdown. These measures included reallocating road space for people walking and cycling, modal filters, school streets, speed limit reduction, changes to junction design to protect people cycling and bringing forward permanent healthy streets schemes already planned.
“We recognise this moment for what it is: a once in a generation opportunity to deliver a lasting transformative change in how we make short journeys in our towns and cities. According to the National Travel Survey, in 2017-18 over 40% of urban journeys were under 2 miles – perfectly suited to walking and cycling.“Foreword by the Secretary of State for Transport, to the Statutory guidance in response to Covid-19, 09/05/2020
Brent Council announced on Thursday 14 May, the first stage of measures to allocate more space on pavements and pinch points throughout the borough and town centres. You can view the full list of locations in this document. The Emergency Provision Report to the Chief Executive, sets out the imperative principles and gives a hint at what else might be coming in the ‘near future‘. We welcome this announcement as it partly answers some of the interventions we asked, and await to find out more about the rest of the measures, in particular with regards to cycling.
“Officers are currently drafting a COVID-19 Transport Response for consideration by Members in the near future. This will focus on future measures to extending social distancing measures to outside schools, tube/train stations and places of worship to address any emerging issues once lockdown measures are eased, as well as school streets, cycle lanes, low traffic neighbourhoods, and measures to support the Mayor for London’s new Streetspace plan.”Report from Brent Council’s Strategic Director of Regeneration and Environment, 12/05/2020
Transport for London
As the week neared to a close, Transport for London (TfL) unveiled more details of its London Streetspace Plan (LSP). The ambitious plan, framed by the Mayor as aiming to create “one of the biggest car-free zones in the world“, sets out the key principles of the programme.
- Restored confidence in public transport and prioritising those who need it the most, when capacity is reduced and physical distancing is necessary,
- Economic regeneration of local high streets and town centres,
- Improved health and wellbeing, by enabling all Londoners to choose active travel,
- Opportunity for Londoners to experience the benefits of reduced car use. COVID-19 related (physical activity, poor air quality) and road danger.
Transport for London’s Streetspace guidance contains everything councils need to start; from streamlined funding forms to checklists to ensure locations suggested meet the expected requirements. The overarching principle is to offer Londoners a safe and inclusive alternative mode of transport to public transport, as we must continue to observe physical distancing. A rise in car use is in no one’s interest given the links between Covid-19 and passive lifestyle and pollution.
Using temporary materials, pavements will be widened, pop-up cycle lanes installed, low traffic neighbourhoods, school streets, more cycle parking all over London. Soon after, pictures and videos starting pouring on social media, showing interventions in several boroughs, highlighting that this is not only urgent but also possible to do it effectively and at a much lower cost than regular schemes.
On the Streetspace web page, Transport for London is very clear as to what is expected from boroughs:
“Given the urgency of the crisis, TfL are looking to work with Boroughs on implementing measures as quickly as possible, which, in some instances, will mean the use of cheap materials. All projects that form part of this programme must demonstrate an urgent and swift response to the crisis and should be implemented as soon as possible.“Interim borough guidance main document, Tfl, Streespace, 15/05/2020
Alongside some very interesting data on the implications for each borough, of supporting active travel versus failing to prevent a rise in private car use, Transport for London also published a map (below) of the Emerging London Streetspace Plan for Cycle Routes.
So, where does this leave Brent? Anyone looking at that map cannot fail to notice a big void of proposals in North West London.emerging-streetspace-for-london-plan-for-cycle-routes
This is a work in progress, Transport for London reminds us in the introduction, but it’s a bit unnerving nevertheless. Brent Council has been badly hit by Covid-19, with the second worst mortality rate, in England and Wales, with 141.5 deaths per 100,000 people.
There is also a stark inequality in cycling in our borough as the North Circular Road is one of the barriers to a bigger uptake in cycling in the north of the borough. This is specifically relevant as these measures are aimed at enabling us to switch from public transport to active travel. This won’t happen if people living in Tokyngton, Wembley, Kingsbury, Alperton or Neasden are unable to cross that horrible, hostile road to reach the South of the borough or go into central London to work.
Emerging data and preliminary reports on patterns of infections, seem to indicate that obesity is a factor in worsening the outcome when contracting the virus. In Brent “half of our population is overweight and an estimated one in five of our population is obese. Rates of diabetes are high in Brent and expected to rise” says the council on its webpage.
Therefore we are recommending the Council to focus on the three following healthy corridors to start with, as they support Transport for London’s Streetspace plan. These would provide an alternative mode of transport to people who normally use public transport, particularly, the tube, and offer safe crossing points of the North Circular Road.
- Metropolitan/Jubilee Line: a route through Neasden Lane (A4088) and linking to QW3 through Gladstone Park. Already marked as a high priority route in Transport for London’s Cycling Strategy Analysis (CSA) which was produced to identify future cycling demand in London.
- Bakerloo Line: Harrow Road (A404), where Transport for London and Brent were already working together to create a Healthy Streets scheme before the Covid-19 health crisis. This is a route for which we received the most requests on our map, representing 28% of all total suggestions. Identified as top priority in the CSA.
- Jubilee Line/bus routes: The A5 (top priority in the CSA). It’s direct, familiar and convenient. Traversing through popular town centres such as Kilburn and Cricklewood, it would be an ideal location to help with people travelling to the shops as well as going on to central London from the north to the south of the borough.
We continue to campaign for safe and inclusive cycling provision and active travel in Brent. In the meantime, do continue to submit locations that would benefit from emergency measures to ensure space for distancing.
Sylvia is the current Brent Cycling Campaign Coordinator. She is a Cricklewood resident and a cargobike mum of two.