London mayor Sadiq Khan has unveiled a new plan to transform the capital’s streets to accommodate a huge increase in walking and cycling once lockdown measures lift.
Under the “Street Space” initiative, pavements will be widened and extra cycle lanes put in to allow people to travel to work while maintaining social distancing.
Writing in City A.M., Khan said that the total number of passengers on the tube would have to be reduced by at least 80 per cent to ensure safe travel for commuters.
With buses also set to have their capacity reduced from 85 passengers to 15, the plan will help enable millions of journeys to be made by other means every day.
However, some groups were sceptical as to whether such measures could realistically replace mass use of the tube and bus networks.
Under the plan, Transport for London will rapidly build a new cycle network with new routes along major thoroughfares such as Euston Road and Park Lane.
Pavements are set to be widened in up to 20 locations, including Brixton, Earl’s Court, and Camden in the coming weeks.
Traffic will also be reduced in residential areas in order to create low-traffic neighbourhoods to encourage people to cycle and walk.
The changes are designed to ease pressure on London’s transport network, with Khan stressing that everyone who can work from home should continue to do so after lockdown measures lift to prevent overcrowding.
The measures are designed to encourage people not to switch back to car use after coronavirus, which would lead to declining air quality and increased congestion across the capital.
Modelling by TfL has found that people could cycle as much as 10 times the number of kilometres a day, and walk five times as far, if demand returns post-lockdown.
Keith Prince, Conservative transport spokesman for the London Assembly, said that though cycling and walking would help, it is “complete madness to think they can replace millions of journeys on London’s Tube and buses”.
He told City A.M.: “This just goes to show that the mayor is a zone one mayor, and hasn’t been thinking outside that area at all.
“There is no way, no matter how wide you make pavements, how many cycling lanes you put in boroughs such as Havering and Redbridge, the majority of people are not going to be able to cycle from London to work”.
Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate Siobhan Benita said active travel solutions alone “will not be enough to prevent the transport network becoming overwhelmed”.
Instead, Benita said, TfL should consider introducing early bird fares to encourage pre-peak travel, bringing in new orbital bus routes, and reintroducing the ULEZ zone and congestion charges, with exceptions for essential workers.