Riding a sustainable travel path after Covid-19

It is wonderful to see that nations, or cities, are pondering a more environmentally friendly future as society ponders an exit from Covid-19 lockdown.

Indeed, sustainability is part of the solution – and our local authorities can act swiftly to play their part.

Last week, world leaders came together to try to agree on a “greener” future. That seemed a message of hope for a long-term plan.

However, today, it was reported that London authorities are to widen cycle and footpaths as they think about returning to work en mass, after European cities, variously, took on the mantle of sustainable travel.

The problem in major cities is this: if everyone went back to normal, we would again see scenes of overcrowded Tube carriages in rush-hour. There were four million Tube journeys a day before the coronavirus hit us, which has been reduced to 200,000 a day at present.

The chances are, many people will choose the alternative of the car to make their journeys to work, if social distancing means that public transport cannot cope with crammed hordes. That means traffic jams, Congestion Charge payments (in London) complaints about nowhere to park and pollution back to higher than previously normal levels.

Yet there is hope. During a Tube strike, many parks in central London found themselves crammed with people. Commuters walking to work. Many of them didn’t really need public transport anyway. Furthermore, millions of us have been enjoying daily walks – or cycle rides – for exercise. We can see the benefits of both. Some, however, report that fewer cars mean those driving go faster, so they are reluctant to take their chances on a bike.

It has been reported that the London Mayor’s office is pushing through measures to widen pavements and create more cycle lanes.

The Scottish Government has announced £10million for pop-up (the mind boggles!) cycle and walking routes. Cities from Bogata, in Columbia, to Mexico City and New York have various plans to kick-start greener ways to travel to work.

Perhaps we should be thankful in Britain that we are approaching summer, which might make a transition away from public transport more practical, leaving the buses and trains for those who are less mobile, or who cannot afford bikes.

It is hoped the Surrey County Council climate change strategy’s transport aims can be implemented with similar speed as others, above, are acting.

The summary report aims to: “Deliver and promote an integrated, accessible, affordable and reliable public and active (walking or cycling) transport system across the County, thereby reducing journeys and improving local air quality for improved health and wellbeing of our residents.”

It wants 60% emissions reduction in the transport sector by 2035, as part of a plan covering many aspects of life, in order to meet carbon reduction targets by 2050.

They will be working with 12 councils across Surrey to achieve the whole report’s aim, having declared a climate emergency.

One place to start with transport is with the cycle lanes on the A25 outside Reigate Grammar School. At least the cycle lane on one side of the road is now available, because double yellow lines have been added.

Cars can not only block cycle lanes but pavements at the same time
Drivers can block both cycle paths and pavements

But if cycling is to be encouraged, one of the local authorities – Reigate and Banstead Borough Council, Surrey Police or Surrey County Council – has to take responsibility for punishing daily parking in the cycling lane that has no double yellow lines.

It is hard to understand what the point is of designating a space for people to use for cycling in the first place if it is not enforced as a cycle only lane. Nor how the Highway Code – approved by central Government – allows a concept to be devised in the first place (broken lines make the cycle lane “advisory”) when it can so easily be over-ridden (excuse the pun).

The road to sustainability has a long way to travel, yet.