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Petition Remove guidance and funding for temporary traffic measures that cause congestion

Road closures, ‘school streets’ and new cycle lanes are creating severe congestion, long traffic delays and severe frustration across the country. Although well intentioned, the experiment has failed. Government guidance supporting such measures, and funds for them, should be withdrawn immediately.

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Many councils have introduced schemes touted as encouraging walking and cycling, but their real impact is gridlock. They've been built without proper consultation, illegitimately justified by the Covid crisis and backed by central government direction and finance.

Congestion and pollution have increased, people are inconvenienced, local businesses have lost trade and lives jeopardised with emergency vehicles stuck in traffic. Cycle tracks are often empty, while the roads alongside are jammed.

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Government responded

This response was given on 27 October 2020

The Government is committed to delivering a step change in levels of active travel. We know the majority of people support giving more road space to cycling and walking in their local area.

Local authorities have a duty to manage their roads for the benefit of all traffic, including cyclists and pedestrians. The more people that cycle and walk, the more road space is freed up for those who really need to drive. Encouraging more cycling and walking is a key part of the Government’s efforts to reduce harmful emissions from transport, as well as to help make people healthier.

The Emergency Active Travel Fund (EATF) was announced on 9 May and included £225 million of funding for local authorities in England. The first tranche focused on temporary changes such as pop-up cycle lanes and widened pavements, to enable social distancing and encourage active travel while public transport capacity is constrained.

Alongside the funding, the Government published additional Network Management Duty guidance. This clearly set out what the Government expects of local authorities in making changes to their road layouts to encourage cycling and walking to support a green recovery. Low-traffic neighbourhoods, school streets, and cycle facilities are some of the measures listed. It is available at: www.gov.uk/government/publications/reallocating-road-space-in-response-to-covid-19-statutory-guidance-for-local-authorities.

Low-traffic neighbourhoods are a collection of measures, including road closures to motor traffic, designed to remove rat-running traffic. They deliver a wide range of benefits – a safer and more pleasant environment for residents, more walking and cycling and better air quality.

School streets are part-time access restrictions that operate during school pick-up and drop-off times, during term time only. Access is maintained for residents, businesses and others such as Blue Badge holders. They can reduce the number of people driving their children to school by up to a third.

There are often concerns that reallocating road space will have a negative impact on business. However, evidence shows that people who walk and cycle take more trips to the high street over the course of a month than people who drive. Making access to high streets easier by walking and cycling has a proven economic benefit. Well planned improvements in the walking environment can deliver up to a 40% increase in shopping footfall and high street walking, cycling and public realm improvements can increase retail sales by up to 30%.

Evidence also shows that investment in cycling and walking is supported by the majority of people in local communities. Although some schemes have attracted negative attention, this is still only a small minority of the people living in those areas.

Local authorities are responsible for delivering cycling and walking schemes in their areas. Although central Government cannot intervene in local democratic decisions, our position remains that if councils fail to demonstrate that their plans are genuine improvements then we will not hesitate to withhold funding. Many measures in tranche 1 of the EATF had to be installed quickly, and local authorities should be willing to consider making changes to these in the light of experience, as some already have.

Effective engagement with the local community, particularly at an early stage, is essential to ensuring the political and public acceptance of any scheme. We are clear that in implementing any of these measures, local authorities will need to ensure access for Blue Badge holders, deliveries and other essential services as appropriate. They will also need to be mindful of the requirements of equalities legislation, ensuring, for example, that in redesigning and reallocating road space they take careful account of the impact this may have on disabled people.

Many schemes have been installed as trials. This approach can help achieve change and ensure a permanent scheme is right first time, but schemes will take time to bed in and for the benefits to become apparent. Trials still require consultation, which is carried out alongside the implementation so that changes can be made in response to feedback.

Some measures, such as road closures, require Traffic Regulation Orders to give effect to them. The temporary amendments made in May to the process for making these orders did not change any of the notice periods. More information on this is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/making-traffic-regulation-orders-during-coronavirus-covid-19.

Local authorities must consult with the emergency services to ensure access is maintained. They have been generally supportive of low-traffic neighbourhoods, and in some cases, their access has improved because narrow, unsuitable roads are no longer full of traffic.

Different types of intervention will be appropriate in different places. For example, what works in urban areas may not be suitable in rural areas or smaller towns, where people are more reliant on private vehicles. Schemes must balance the needs of cyclists and pedestrians with the needs of other road users, including motorists and local businesses.

Department for Transport

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