WARRINGTON Borough Council is pledging to transform active travel to help control the spread of COVID-19 and to to do everything in its power to make public spaces safe, accessible and make them thrive again.
Coronavirus has dramatically altered the transport and exercise habits of people in Warrington – the number of people cycling across Warrington has surged by more than 100% and traffic levels on roads in some areas have been as low as 40% of normal volumes. Despite recent increases, they are still over one third lower than this time last year.
Due to these large changes in travel, it’s expected that while communities are still affected by the pandemic, Warrington residents will drive far less and there will be a continued increase in walking, cycling and running.
This, in the build-up to the start of National Bike Week this weekend, Saturday 6 June, means there are now opportunities to support active travel – cycling and walking – like never before, with the very real possibility that we may be living in a socially distant world for the foreseeable future.
It is also vital we support all of Warrington’s businesses as they continue to reopen, in accordance with the planned relaxations of the lockdown to allow the necessary social distancing to take place.
Highways to support pedestrians and cyclists
·The council will be widening key footways, with temporary barriers at pinch-point areas to accommodate the increased numbers in pedestrians – and to ensure they can safely socially distance from others.
·There will be a large increase in dedicated cycle lanes, using new barriers and signage, to help the marked increase of cyclists travel safely in Warrington.
·Traffic signals will be changed to prioritise ‘green time’ for residents and ensure pedestrian and cyclist safety.
·There will be changes to the Town Centre roads, including new one-way roads, to make it more pedestrian and cycle focused.
A safer town centre
· As well as widened footways, there will also be one-way pavements with clearly marked ‘Stay left, stay safe’ signage to support residents with social distancing.
·The council will also work with customer-facing businesses like banks, shops and bars to introduce safe, sensible queuing areas outsides their premises when they re-open in line with the national guidance.
Protective parks and green spaces
·Clear signage will be positioned at park entrances to support people to keep their distance.
·High-traffic footpaths will be widened.
·Maintenance of parks and green spaces will focus on clearing the space around footways to ensure enough room for people walking or cycling.
·Playgrounds and outdoor gyms will remain closed until Government guidance allows their reopening.
In addition to these changes, the council will also be looking at communities and urban areas that will benefit from an uplift in secure bicycle parking.
Measures aimed at the centre and district centre spaces will be rolled out to coincide with the re-opening of non-essential retail and eateries, which is currently planned for 15 June, when higher footfall in these areas is expected to return.
Council leader, Cllr Russ Bowden said: “The council will begin the rollout its various temporary highway improvements in the very near future and look to complete the first phase by the end of July. This will focus on the town centre and district centres, including Stockton Heath and Lymm.
“You will see a large uplift in bicycle lanes, footway widening and the introduction of several one-way roads to reduce the number of vehicles ‘rat running’ through the town centre. The changes we’re making to support cyclists is welcome news, particularly with National Bike Week starting this weekend.
“While the interventions we have planned are initially on a temporary basis, these could be made permanent in future if shown to be effective and well received. As part of our work we will fully evaluate how effective the interventions are like our cycle lanes and widening pedestrianised areas – and in some cases we may tweak or remove them altogether where needed, but we need to seize the current opportunities for active travel.
“These changes are necessary to ensure our residents are social distancing and to accommodate for the changes in our travel and behaviour in the Covid-19 world.
“We welcome feedback from our residents about their views on the various changes we make and how well they help to support people’s new exercise and travel habits. I’m hopeful that we have now reached a turning point in how people get around Warrington – with people’s travel habits lasting well beyond this pandemic.”
Funding for improvements will be sourced in part from an Emergency Active Travel Grant provided by the Department for Transport – details of which were confirmed on 27 May – which will contribute to the cost of the council’s main temporary highway interventions.
The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) has also allocated a share of funding worth around £150k to Warrington Borough Council for assistance in adapting urban centres.
The increased uptake in cycling for Warrington residents is the perfect opportunity to get involved in National Bike Week 2020, which starts on Saturday 6 until 14 June. Visit cyclinguk.org/bikeweek to find out more about the different events they’re holding online. If you’d like to discover some local cycle routes, you can find the Warrington cycle map on the council website: warrington.gov.uk/cycling
More details of the first phase of measures will be announced in the near future.