A MILE of new pop-up cycling and walking lanes will be installed every week for the next 10 weeks under new plans for the post-lockdown recovery of Leicester’s transport system.
Leicester City Council is developing a series of transport recovery measures to enable people to get around the city more safely and healthily, and to support local businesses and employees as lockdown restrictions are gradually eased under the Government’s recovery plans.
A key part of that programme will be to enable people to cycle and walk safely rather than relying on public transport. The council is working closely with bus operators which are being encouraged by the Government to increase the number of services to around 80 percent of normal levels in the coming weeks. However buses will operate at a greatly reduced capacity of around 25 percent to ensure passengers can remain a safe distance apart.
Around 40 percent of urban journeys are under two miles, and by providing additional safe routes the city council wants to encourage as many people as possible to walk and cycle rather than use a car. Supporting healthier lifestyles, keeping air pollution levels lower and contributing to the council’s climate emergency commitment are key elements of the plan.
City Mayor Peter Soulsby has announced the goal of creating a further mile of cycling and walking routes every week for the next 10 weeks.
The routes will build upon the ongoing Connecting Leicester work to create a cycling and walking network connecting key areas of the city including shopping, business and tourist areas, hospitals, universities and development areas.
Pop-up cycle routes were introduced on Saffron Lane and Aylestone Road in the last month, taking advantage of the reduced traffic flow to create safe routes particularly for keyworkers travelling to Leicester Royal Infirmary.
The next phase of this work will see pop-up cycle lanes installed on some of the major arterial routes into the city, creating wider, safe cycling and walking corridors.
These will begin this week on a 1.2-mile stretch of London Road inbound between Shanklin Drive and Victoria Park Road, which will be marked out using cones and signs, with work taking place shortly after on a 1.6-mile inbound stretch of Hinckley Road.
On Abbey Park Road, a new pedestrian zone and cycleway will be created linking Belgrave Circle to the park entrance, while the right-hand turn from Belvoir Street into Pocklington’s Walk will be closed to traffic to create safer conditions for cycling and walking.
Additional cycleway routes are being considered on other main roads, for example linking to Beaumont Leys in the north of the city. Permanent cycle way schemes which are already underway as part of the Transforming Cities programme, at Lancaster Road near the University of Leicester, as well as on Belgrave Gate and the inner ring road, will be accelerated for early completion.
Pavements will also be widened to help support local shops when they reopen and to provide safer walking areas, including initially on Queens Road and in a number of other locations, including Braunstone Gate and Belgrave Road.
The council aims to follow this with other schemes which are currently being investigated at other local centres such as Narborough Road and Green Lane Road.
In each case the work can be carried out within a day or two, with minimum impact on other road users, by marking out the new lanes with traffic cones and signs.
In response to the Government’s staged recovery plan, the city council is also planning to bring back a number of other transport services from June 1. City council-run car parking is being planned to come back into full use, with Newarke Street Car Park using a new AutoPay system, which allows drivers to register online and then uses number plate recognition technology to confirm payment. The system removes the need for drivers to queue or handle payment machines. Car parking will remain free to NHS and care workers.
Park and Ride services at Enderby and Meynells Gorse are also due to start again from June 1, to add more bus capacity to travel to the city centre. People will also be able to park and cycle, although the Birstall Park and Ride site remains closed at present, being used instead as a coronavirus testing centre. As with city centre parking, the Park and Ride will remain free for NHS and care workers.
City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “The recovery from the coronavirus lockdown gives us an unprecedented opportunity to help people to make transport choices for the better, rather than returning to the problems of congested roads, vehicle emissions and the resulting poor air quality.
“The coronavirus crisis has meant we’ve all got to think about how we can travel more sustainably and safely while the usual public transport networks are unable to operate at their previous capacity.
“But this is also about ensuing the city’s economy can recover, by making changes to ensure customers can safely travel to and from shopping areas and access business while maintaining social distancing.
“Some of these changes can be done easily and quickly, with others taking a little more planning, but when done correctly will enable the city to recover, and come back stronger than before.”
Since the start of the Government’s lockdown on March 23, traffic in the city has fallen to about 50 percent of its previous volumes, with bus usage at about 17 percent. Cycling has increased in outer areas of the city since lockdown, with increases of between 170 percent and 195 percent at Braunstone Park and Riverside Way, with walking also having doubled at New Parks Way and Great Central Way for example.
Traffic levels are slowly starting to rise however, and measures need to be put in place quickly to give people sustainable and safe travel choices.
Leicester deputy city mayor for environment and transportation, Cllr Adam Clarke, added: “As well as helping to get key workers to where we need them to be right now, these measures have obvious benefits in helping people to make healthy travel choices, support the local economy, combat the climate emergency and improve air quality.
“The key worker corridors on Saffron Lane and Aylestone Road have been very well received in Leicester and beyond, and they are relatively easy ways to make rapid improvements to the city’s transport network.
“We have also loaned nearly 200 bikes to key workers and are providing free bike maintenance as part of our Bike Aid initiative.
“The challenges presented by coronavirus mean we have got to think creatively about how we can help people move around in the city more sustainably, in a way that supports their health, the recovering economy and helps us address our environmental priorities.”