BA calls on members to lobby local MP and council for ’emergency infrastructure’

The Bicycle Association has called on its members to lobby their local MPs and councils for emergency cycling and walking infrastructure.

“It looks like we’ll soon be moving to a new phase in the UK response to COVID-19,” said the BA. “Before we do, there’s a short window of opportunity to set in place a step-change to more cycle-friendly towns and cities.”

The BA said local authorities should be implementing ‘emergency infrastructure’ for cycling and walking for safety against the virus – so we can social distance (cycling, in particular, will be a necessity to avoid crowding public transport), for safety on the road, so cyclists – particularly new and returning cyclists – feel that cycling is a safe option, and long term for a cleaner, healthier ‘new normal’ transport environment.

Numerous countries and cities worldwide are already moving on this, but in the UK “very few” local authorities have acted, the BA has said. The BA and other cycling organisations are urgently lobbying Government to show leadership and to encourage local authorities to implement such emergency infrastructure changes, but the official response so far is that this is primarily an issue for local authorities.

“BA members and your dealers, as contributors to your local economy and community, can really add to our efforts by urging your own local authorities and MPs to act,” the BA added. “As local employers and contributors to the economy, your voice counts! We’ve set out some possible steps below, and a template email or letter is attached. Please consider doing all you can to get this message out.”

Template email text:

We’ve drafted a template which can be used as a letter or email, setting out some of the main arguments and resources.  You may, of course, wish to customise this – a personal, passionate letter is always more effective!

Where to send it:

– This will be largely driven by your local knowledge but for example, check your local council website for details of local councillors and the council head. It may also be effective to contact the council’s transport or roads team
– Cycling UK has produced a convenient tool here:  https://action.cyclinguk.org/page/59646/action/1  which allows individuals to reach local councillors and council leaders. You could use this to also submit a personal message
– Finally, please consider contacting your local MP

Re: Emergency cycling and walking infrastructure changes

Dear ???

I am writing on behalf of ??????, based in ??? where we employ ?? staff. (add more brief company details).

As you will be aware many cycle shops have remained open during COVID-19 lockdown to support key workers using bikes for their essential journeys, and also for people enjoying cycling for healthy exercise.

During this lockdown period reduced levels of motor traffic have enabled people to feel safe riding bikes. As a result cycling has risen significantly under lockdown. The first figures available suggest Scotland has seen 35% growth in cycling, and Greater Manchester 22%. Industry reports indicate that around 7 out of 10 of customers during lockdown are new or returning riders.

Cycling has also allowed many key workers to travel safely to work without using public transport, where social distancing is hard to achieve. As a company we are happy to have been able to support people using bikes in this way.

However, we feel we must now draw your urgent attention to some increasingly pressing issues:

Immediately:
– In busy areas, while road lanes are largely unused by cars, there is insufficient space for people on bicycles in cycle lanes (where these exist), and for people walking/running/queuing on busy pavements, to maintain social distancing. For example, ADD LOCAL EXAMPLES HERE IF POSSIBLE

In the coming weeks

– As lockdown eases, commuters who would normally have used public transport will feel they have no option but to travel by car. Added to ‘normal’ car users, this will exacerbate our area’s congestion and air quality problems.

– There is a strong likelihood that motor traffic will returns to ‘normal’ levels or even higher, as has already happened when lockdown restrictions were lifted in Wuhan and Beijing. If that happens, people who cycle will no longer feel safe on the roads (especially the many newcomers to cycling) and many will opt instead to use their cars even for short journeys, compounding the problems.

Medium/longer term

– Social distancing seems likely to be the new normal for the next year or more, so a return to business as usual is not an option. There may be some mitigation of transport issues through increased working from home, but by its nature public transport, which relies on a high density of passengers, will have to operate at limited capacity. If we are to avoid further road traffic congestion, cycling and walking facilities must be scaled to accommodate more people than before.

– We believe there is also growing public support for a ‘new normal’ of cleaner, heathier, greener cities with fewer cars, and more bikes and walking. Longer term, this would help in meeting our nation’s climate change objectives.

We are therefore urging rapid consideration of temporary reallocation of road space for active travel users using quick, low-cost ‘pop up’ measures.

These might include simply using paint, cones or similar to create temporarily widened pavements and cycle lanes, or using barriers or other obstacles to close certain roads to through traffic.

– Examples of UK local authorities who have already enacted such measures include Brighton, Leicester and the Borough of Lambeth. There are also numerous international examples (the issues faced are the same worldwide).

– In Scotland, a £10m “Active Travel Infrastructure fund” has been announced to enable local authorities to implement such measures swiftly.

– The Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation has produced this brief guide for local authorities to summarise relevant powers and options: https://www.ciht.org.uk/blogs/local-active-transport-helping-address-impact-of-coronavirus/

– The charity Cycling UK also offers a detailed guide for local authorities: https://www.cyclinguk.org/sites/default/files/document/2020/04/cycling_uk_guide_for_local_authorities_active_transport_measures_to_address_impact_of_covid19.pdf

We hope you will give this matter your most urgent consideration.

Yours etc

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