Here’s a report on the changes being levered by the pandemic to accelerate the move to active-transportation infrastructure and design of neighbourhoods in Britain – and the reaction against the constraint of motordom.
Notice, as well, the use of the ‘Fairness Finesse.’ That’s the use of progressive language, defense of the marginalized, particularly the disabled, and the strategy of anti-gentrification – all to maintain the status quo: “motorists reasserting their right to take up space on urban streets.”
And let’s throw in a little class warfare: “Steve McNamara, the chair of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association … repeatedly returns to a theme that cyclists are a privileged minority making life more difficult for working-class drivers in the suburbs.”
In London, the Streetspace plan unveiled by mayor Sadiq Khan and Transport for London (TfL), demanded “an urgent and swift response” to the crisis. The strategy funnelled money from the government’s new active-travel fund to London’s boroughs for low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) and other projects to encourage walking and cycling, such as temporary cycle lanes and timed road closures outside schools. By the end of last year, there were about 100 in London, where they have been most widely adopted, but they are now being rolled out in Manchester, Birmingham and other cities. …
Enthusiasm for LTNs brought about a rare consensus between the Conservative government and the Labour mayor of London, as well as Greens and pro-cycling groups. But an opposition also sprang up, bringing together an equally unlikely alliance of anti-gentrification activists, professional drivers, Labour and Conservative backbenchers, local councils, motoring lobbyists and a raft of new grassroots campaigners who shared their outrage on neighbourhood Facebook groups. On social media, each side conjured up its own vision of life in low-traffic neighbourhoods: one a utopia of families cycling happily together on quiet streets, with children wobbling out in front; the other a nightmare of permanently congested roads, with emergency vehicles snared in the gridlock.
The protesters in the Hackney motorcade stressed that they had only brought their cars in order to respect social distancing and allow disabled people to participate. But the exuberant procession of cars, with their horns honking and engines revving, seemed to suggest something bolder: motorists reasserting their right to take up space on urban streets.
The story also links to a recent study with respect to ‘Low Traffic Neighbourhoods’, or LTNs:
There is no evidence that LTNs disproportionately benefit the better-off. A new study has shown that, contrary to one of the most common objections, road closures have not shifted traffic from wealthier areas into more deprived ones.
Sadiq Khan, mayor of London, on a new Streetspace cycle lane in London, July 2020.
And with respect to that ever-popular meme that bike lanes cause gentrification:
In his study of cycling culture in the San Francisco Bay Area, the geographer John Stehlin did not find a causal link between bike lanes and gentrification. But he argued that initiatives to make streets more livable, while often motivated by progressive ideals, also became useful marketing tools for developers of high-end housing.
Once you get past the academese, there’s a fascinating analysis of the emergence of cycling as a political force and the debate over gentrification in The Mission – Chapter 4: “The Valencia Epiphany” and the Production of the Cyclescape – starting at page 153.