The West of England Combined Authority (WECA) has agreed £13m investment in measures to encourage cycling and walking in the region. It comes as Sport England reports that during lockdown the number of people cycling has doubled from 8% to 16%.
£3m will underwrite the cost of short-term measures to help people to maintain social distancing while walking and cycling. A further £10m has been agreed for longer term solutions to encourage active travel in the region.
West of England Mayor Tim Bowles said: “During the lockdown many people have taken advantage of quieter roads to walk or cycle more regularly. This new funding is helping to make sure we can safely move around our communities again, but also aims to create a long term, positive legacy of more cycling and walking in the region as restrictions ease. We have a real opportunity to capture the positive changes we have seen to improve the physical and mental health of residents and cut carbon emissions, improve air quality and ease congestion across the West of England.”
Local councils have been working with WECA to rapidly plan and implement measures such as widening pavements and installing pop up cycle lanes to help people travel safely while social distancing is required. Schemes include:
- Changes to road space in local high streets to provide more room for cyclists and pedestrians and to help with social distancing including in Hanham, Bedminster, Clifton Village, Thornbury, Downend, Filton and Staple Hill.
- Vehicle access restrictions in city centres to give more room for social distancing including York Street and Cheap Street in Bath and the Old City area of Bristol.
- Temporary cycle lanes at Victoria Street, Lewins Mead and Stoke Croft in Bristol
Through underwriting the cost of these schemes WECA has enabled councils to act quickly in advance of receiving government funding. Government has made an indicative allocation of £3.7m to the region for this work with the first tranche of funding, £741k likely to be received by WECA shortly.
The temporary measures will be reviewed and if successful it is anticipated that some could form part of the longer-term solutions to encourage cycling and walking in the region.
The investment follows the adoption today of the Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan, consulted on earlier this year which sets out ambitious plans for the region.