Tough and troubling times indeed, but the Covid 19 pandemic at least gives us an opportunity to reclaim our streets ‘as safe and healthy places’ – according to Bath MP Wera Hobhouse.
In a letter to the Transport Secretary, Wera – who is Lib Dem spokesperson for the Climate Emergency, Energy and the Environment – has coordinated a cross-party group of MPs who seek to ensure “continued environmental improvement is a priority in the vital task of restarting our economy.”
The letter calls on the Government to empower local authorities by introducing:
- A simplified approval system for the rapid introduction of holistic speed-reduction strategies by any council to make streets safer.
- Cash to expand the capacity of the public transport network to facilitate proper social distancing in the future, and to ensure that public transport is a genuinely affordable alternative to private car transport in the longer term.
- New powers for Highways Authorities to bring in dedicated cycle lanes, similar to schemes in other countries equally seeking to embed environmental gains.
- An indemnity for any local authority using the enhanced Traffic Regulation Orders against legal challenge, so that councils can have the confidence to proceed rapidly.
Wera said: “The COVID-19 crisis is forcing us to rethink all that we do and transport is no exception. We must seize this opportunity to improve our environment and air quality through systemic change. The Government’s recent announcement designed to increase the numbers of people walking and cycling to work is a welcome step forward for sustainable transport, but even more can and should be done.
“We are calling on the Government to take steps to empower Local Authorities to implement practical changes, such as speed restricted zones, to make our streets safer and greener. Local Authorities must be confident that the law is behind them when it comes to introducing and enforcing measures that alter current transport infrastructure.”
“We must also ensure that the Government is embedding this new approach into long-terms plans, to help reclaim our streets as safe and healthy places, both now and into the future. This will help protect lives and our environment.”