Newcastle will receive public funding to establish more cycle paths and walking routes in the city centre to discourage public transport use once the lockdown ends.
As part of the Government’s £250m plan to encourage cycling and walking to ensure that social distancing measures are kept while people slowly return to work, Newcastle will see an array of measures introduced in the next month. These include a reallocation of road space to enable the creation of pop-up cycle lanes and vouchers for bike shops to help repairs.
It has furthermore been rumoured that additional measures may include closing some streets to cars entirely.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps hopes to establish “a new era for cycling and walking” through the plan which was announced in Saturday’s government coronavirus briefing. The £250m “emergency active travel fund” is part of a longer term £2bn investment nationwide encouraging cycling, walking and public transport. A Ipsos Mori poll shows that 61% of Britons are uncomfortable about travelling by public transport after the lockdown.
Offices.co.uk, who manage several large office buildings in Newcastle, intend to convert their car park spaces into bike parks to meet the anticipated spike in cycling.
On Sunday, Boris Johnson announced that those returning to work should avoid using public transport, and passengers have been advised to only travel by Metro if they are a key worker or if the journey is essential. The government has furthermore urged members of the public to wear face masks when travelling on public transport
Nexus, who operate the Tyne and Wear Metro, have announced that up to three children aged 11 and under may be able to travel by Metro for free when with an accompanying paying adult day once social distancing restrictions are lifted. This scheme was introduced in January to cover weekend and bank holidays, but is expected to be extended to every day to help struggling families whose income has been hit hardest by the pandemic.
A Nexus spokesperson said: “We don’t plan or expect this to happen before late summer, and it will be driven by lockdown easing. It is important we are ready when the time comes so Metro can play its part helping families keep costs down and getting the region’s economy going again.”
The initial scheme in January generated an extra £10,000 in revenue for Nexus from increased adult ticket sales over the first nine weekends of 2020. A similar income could be much needed when social distancing measures are relaxed, with Metro passenger numbers having dropped by up to 95% during lockdown.
A Newcastle City Council spokesperson said: “Having a cleaner, greener and safer city to get around is at the heart of all our transport plans for now and into the future. We’re actively looking at a number of measures to re-allocate road space so it’s easier for people to get around, whether on foot, on bike or by public transport.
“There has been a huge amount of work done behind the scenes, but we are awaiting guidance from Government on the lifting of restrictions for lockdown as this will inform our plans and where we prioritise our resources.
“A number of schemes we have been looking at include how people get around the city centre, local shopping areas as well as school routes. We hope to make a full announcement soon on what schemes we will put in place first.
“As ever, our actions will be focused on ensuring we continue to protect the public and enable a rapid recovery for our city.”
Last modified: 12th May 2020