Coronavirus: Brighton roads could switch to cycle lanes

Coronavirus: Brighton roads could switch to cycle lanes

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BRIGHTON and Hove could become the latest world city to see its roads reclaimed by pedestrians and pedal power.

The city’s council is currently looking into the feasibility of temporarily turning road space into areas for cyclists and walkers.

It is believed this would provide more options to people looking to escape their homes for one bout of daily exercise, as allowed by the Government in its stringent social distancing guidelines, as well as offering another transport option to key workers such as medical staff trying to get to hospital.

This action has already been taken in sprawling metropolises across the globe including Berlin, Bogota and Mexico City.

There have been new, wider bike lanes installed in Berlin roads and streets where cars had previously been dominant.

Meanwhile Mexico City has a 1.7km temporary lane running throughout the day along one of its major highways, with a further 130km currently being proposed.

Bogota has gone one step further, replacing 35km of traffic lanes with emergency bike lanes using cones to separate cyclists from drivers.

This follows a significant drop in the number of drivers on the roads as countries enforce stringent lockdown rules to stop the spread of coronavirus.

The two-wheeled takeover would seek to open up new areas for Brighton’s locked down population to take their daily exercise with the Government currently allowing Britons to venture outside once a day for a short walk, run or cycle.

It is thought that this would stop an overflow of people escaping their houses on the seafront or in parks as has been seen in recent weeks.

Last weekend, council leader Nancy Platts urged people to stay away from the beach and promenade as the large number of people gathered there had made “social distancing impossible”.

She said: “”We ask people to go out in their local area, and to not travel by car.

“We don’t want people breaking down, running out of petrol or going to a place where there are a lot of people.

“That’s why we have kept the parks and beaches open. A lot of people in the city don’t have gardens so it is good to have access to a large open space.

“People can go to their nearest park or beach and still keep their distance from others.”

With the proposed changes, Brighton and Hove’s citizens would have far more options when looking at safe walking, running and cycling routes in the city.

Chairwoman of Brighton and Hove City Council’s environment, transport and sustainability committee, Councillor Anne Pissaridou, said she had read an article by journalist Laura Laker in The Guardian over the weekend and had been inspired to look into implementing the pedestrian-friendly measures in the city.

She said: “I have looked at the article in The Guardian by Laura Laker today saying that cities around the world are temporarily re-allocating road space from cars to people on foot and cycles to keep key workers moving and residents in coronavirus lockdown healthy and active while socially distancing.

“I think it’s an interesting idea that is worth further exploration, so I’ve asked asked (council) officers to look at this to see whether any similar measures might be legally and practically possible in some areas of the city.”

This week, Brighton and Hove Buses reported that it had seen a 90 per cent drop in passenger numbers and, since the lockdown was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on March 23, many of the city’s streets have been almost empty as drivers heed the “stay home, save lives”message which has become a societal mantra in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, Brighton and Hove City Council’s cycle share scheme, BTN BikeShare, announced earlier this month that it would be free for NHS workers during the coronavirus crisis.

Annual memberships, which include 30 minutes of free travel and no unlock fees, are also being offered to care contractor staff working for the authority.

Cllr Pissaridou said: “We are living in unprecedented times and it’s vital we support our NHS staff however we can.

“This offer will allow them free access to BTN BikeShare at a time when their role has never been so important.”

Meanwhile in January, before the outbreak of coronavirus, the authority voted for a feasibility report into plans to make parts of the city centre car-free by 2023.

The proposal was put forward by Green Councillor Amy Heley.