An ambitious transformation of London’s roads has been fast-tracked to enable social distancing and safe travel.
Cycleway9 has been in the pipeline since 2017 and was scheduled to be finished in 2022 but has been accelerated under London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s Streetspace programme which will see many London streets altered to give pedestrians and cyclists more space.
Cycleway9 aims to make cycling safer by creating a network of cycle lanes between Brentford, Chiswick, Hammersmith, and Kensington.
Until now, the roads have been dominated by motor traffic which can be intimidating and dangerous places to walk and cycle, 126 people died on London roads in 2019, an increase of 22 from 2018.
Labour MP for Hammersmith Andy Slaughter said: “If social distancing is going to be with us for a considerable time, the only solution is to give people more space.
“There’s a lot of bad driving out there and some people have little regard for cyclists so this is about getting to the group of people who would like to cycle but have reservations about it because of safety.”
Temporary barriers have now been installed along the Cycleway9 route including Chiswick High Street and King Street to protect cyclists from motor traffic.
In addition to pop-up cycle-lanes, Streetspace is widening pavements around London, including King Street, by repurposing on-street parking and car lanes to give pedestrians more space.
Mr Slaughter added: “It’s amazing what we find out we can do in a time of crisis.”
Public transport is running at 1/5th capacity in London and many people have voiced concerns about the dangerous inability to socially distance during their commute as they return to work.
Commuters can be seen piling onto tube trains a day after Boris Johnson said those who are unable to work from home should now be "actively encouraged" to go to work from Wednesday.— SkyNews (@SkyNews) May 11, 2020
More on easing the #COVID19 lockdown here: https://t.co/moOxdDFEK7 pic.twitter.com/wmwlHcd4vc
However, if even a fraction of commuters turn to cars instead this will result in gridlock and a significant rise in air pollution.
More than 70% of people are concerned about air pollution returning to pre-lockdown levels once restrictions are eased, according to a YouGov poll commissioned by Greenpeace.
Mr Slaughter said: “In a way it’s broken an impasse because there were some councils who were reluctant themselves or thought their residents might be reluctant.
“For those people who are concerned about it, they have the reassurance that if there are problems then they will be sorted out before it is literally set in stone.”
Whilst the Cycleway9 route is guaranteed, Sadiq Khan said other Streetspace changes will be reviewed and could become permanent as part of London’s sustainable recovery.