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Coronavirus: Bristol Greens call for calmer streets and more space for social distancing

UPDATE 14th May 2020: In response to these calls from Bristol Green Party, Bristol Cycling Campaign, Living Streets and others, Bristol City Council has now announced some road improvements. This is an important step in the right direction which Bristol’s Green Councillors are pleased to see. However, many busy streets have not been included yet, so we will continue lobbying for other roads where we know that road space reallocation is necessary, and we will keep a close eye on timescales and delivery.

15th April 2020

Bristol’s Green Councillor group have today called on Bristol Council to look into road space reallocation and traffic calming measures to combat coronavirus. The measures proposed are aimed at making it easier for people in the city to exercise safely while social distancing and to reduce demands on the NHS.

Leader of the Green Councillor Group, Eleanor Combley, sent an email (see below) to Mayor Marvin Rees and the Cabinet Transport lead Councillor Kye Dudd outlining some of the measures that the Council might look into, including taking space from cars to widen pedestrian space in busy areas or near shops, filtering measures to slow traffic in residential areas, and temporary widening of cycle lanes. She said “we should do everything in our power to keep people safe”.

As cities around the world implement measures to allocate more road space to cyclists and pedestrians in response to the pandemic, UK Councils are starting to look into the issue. Brighton and Hove Council recently confirmed they are exploring similar measures, and Hackney councillors are expected to vote soon on a list of ‘filtered’ streets.

Leader of Bristol Green Group, Councillor Eleanor Combley said:
“During this crisis it is important that we do everything we can to reduce the burden on the NHS. We can do that by keeping people safe and preventing road traffic accidents. And we can also help slow the spread of COVID-19 by ensuring people have the space to move around for exercise or essential shopping at a safe distance from each other. That is why I am calling on Bristol City Council to take temporary measures to make more space available to pedestrians and cyclists and reduce crowding.

“Cities across the world are already doing this, from Auckland to Winnipeg and from Berlin to Bogota, and in the UK Transport for London and other councils such as Brighton and Manchester are already actively considering what can be done. We should do everything in our power to keep people safe.”

Email from Cllr Eleanor Combley

FAO Mayor Marvin Rees and Cabinet Transport Lead Kye Dudd

Anecdotal evidence and stories in the media suggest that some Bristol residents are finding it hard to practise social distancing when outside the house for shopping or exercise – many of the pavements in our city are not wide enough to allow for the 2 metres recommended distance. There have also been many reports by residents and police forces that some drivers are taking advantage of quieter streets to drive dangerously fast. This poses even more of a danger to people who are finding they need to step into the road to adhere to social distancing on busy pavements.

To tackle this, we believe the Council should look at what it can do to temporarily reclaim streets for people and communities. Other councils such as Brighton & Hove, Hackney, as well as Transport for London are looking into road space reallocation measures. Some cities like Manchester have already taken action. Traffic calming measures, combined with measures to provide more space for people, can help us tackle the pandemic in Bristol by:

  • Reducing chances of transmission of covid-19 while people are outside the house
  • Allowing people taking daily exercise to safely social distance
  • Reducing road traffic accidents and thus strain on local hospitals

In order to achieve this we call on you to commit the Council to explore how we might implement some or all of the following measures in Bristol:

  • Cones or other temporary measures to widen pavement space in areas with significant footfall or outside busy shops
  • Temporary measures to close residential streets to through traffic
  • Temporary walking and cycle lanes where possible to be reclaimed from the road
  • Filtering measures to slow traffic in residential streets (As Hackney council is doing)
  • Changing traffic priority measures to improve pedestrian crossing times (to prevent crowds forming while waiting to cross)
  • Extending 20mph to any residential roads not already covered by it – leading doctors have been calling for this to lower the baseline demands placed on the NHS, for example this article in the British Medical Journal.
  • Temporary road pedestrianisation
  • Temporary widening of bike lanes where possible to allow cyclists safe overtaking

These measures could be implemented through introducing an Experimental Traffic Order, or there may be other mechanisms available. We encourage the Cabinet member to liaise with his counterparts in other Councils that are leading on this, to explore creative solutions. We know council staff are busy at the moment, but highways workers have been continuing work such as re-lining existing cycle lanes during the pandemic, and given the multiple benefits of reallocating space to pedestrians outlined above, it would be worth prioritising. You will of course want to liaise with emergency services about any such measures.

Thank you so much for your consideration of this matter, and for all the work you are doing at this time of crisis.

Eleanor Combley
Councillor, Bishopston and Ashley Down
Leader, Green Group, Bristol City Council

-          Cones or other temporary measures to widen pavement space in areas with significant footfall or outside busy shops

-          Temporary measures to close residential streets to through traffic

-          Temporary walking and cycle lanes where possible to be reclaimed from the road

-          Filtering measures to slow traffic in residential streets (As Hackney council is doing)

-          Changing traffic priority measures to improve pedestrian crossing times (to prevent crowds forming while waiting to cross)

-          Extending 20mph to any residential roads not already covered by it – leading doctors have been calling for this to lower the baseline demands placed on the NHS, for example this article in the British Medical Journal.

-          Temporary road pedestrianisation

Temporary widening of bike lanes where possible to allow cyclists safe overtaking

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