I have written about the City of London England being one of the first cities to embrace the concept of slower streets during the pandemic through the adoption of “red routes”. These major roads lead to the inner city and in partnership with Transport for London (TFL) the City of London developed a unified strategy to opening streets across boroughs for walking and cycling through wider sidewalks, thinner driving lanes, and road closures.
They also initiated traffic light signal changes to allow pedestrians and cyclists longer greens when crossing, knowing that walking and cycling would prevail as a way to get around during the pandemic.
Greg Ritchie writes for Bloomberg.com that many of those initiatives embraced for physical distancing will continue in the future even when the pandemic is over. In the words of Simon Fraser University’s Duke of Data Andy Yan, the pandemic has accelerated many changes that would be happening over a much longer time period.
London’s central core the “square mile” has narrow streets that make the two metre separation for physical distancing challenging.
London will embark on a public process on the red routes to make them permanent. It is interesting to note that the other financial centre, Canary Wharf, is well served by underground train and walking facilities and allows very limited vehicular traffic.
I previously wrote about about the fact that the City of London still has only 25 percent of workers returning to the downtown, and that public transit usage is down by 50 percent. However, biking and private vehicle use ahs returned to pre pandemic levels. The intent of reinforcing good walking and biking infrastructure is to lessen in the long term the continued use of the car.
As London’s Chair of the Planning and Transportation Committee stated “We’ve got the luxury at the moment that we can try things out and use the pandemic as a virtue. A lot of these roads were congested, air quality has been an issue, road safety has been an issue. We’re determined those things should be tackled, so I’d anticipate that a lot of our measures will stay.”
The financial sector and services found in London’s centre represent 8 percent of the British economy, and the widened sidewalks and dedicated bike lanes are to reinforce safety, comfort and in covid times security of ease of access and travel.
For those missing the chance to travel, here’s a thirty minute walk through Oxford Street, New Bond Street and Piccadilly filmed in early September 2020.