Without diminishing the challenges for many presented by the COVID-19 lockdown, one of the undoubted benefits has been the huge increase in walking and cycling around Bromley’s residential streets as local residents take their daily exercise. This has become a welcome addition to the routine of my household where a family cycle ride has become a daily event. The reduced levels of car traffic have made me feel comfortable enough to allow my young children to cycle on the roads and it has been an absolute pleasure to see them flourish into confident and happy cyclists, able to cycle a 5 mile round trip to our local country park without complaint. This gives us all a glimpse into a possible future where all children take active forms of travel to school that was not possible with pre-lockdown traffic levels.
Local Councils have already been granted temporary powers to close streets to vehicular traffic to allow for safe walking and cycling and £250m has been made available to local authorities to put physical infrastructure in place to allow safe walking and cycling during lockdown. However, we have yet to hear any plans from Bromley Council in this regard.
I very much hope they follow the lead of many other cities around the world, including Brighton, that have taken steps such as making roads one way or closing residential streets to traffic altogether to increase the space for pedestrians and cyclists to use the road whilst maintaining a safe distance, something all the more important for the many families without access to gardens. Bromley Lib Dems will keep an eager eye on the Council's plans and will be submitting questions to Council on this as soon as the public is permitted to engage in the local democratic process once again.
The closure of streets is likely to form a crucial part of the plans for schools to return – closing all streets with school entrances to traffic for drop off and pick up times to allow enough space for pupils to leave and arrive on foot, cycle or scooter whilst maintaining the 2m distance. The current crisis has created a unique opportunity to try out ideas that people might find they want to adopt permanently, such as the closure of school roads to vehicles at drop off and pick up, reduced access and speed limits on residential roads, regular road closures for “play streets” schemes and generally reimagining how we live and use the space in our cities. Let’s seize the opportunity in Bromley.
by Rhian Kanat