An open letter from the Peacemaker Foundation
Update May 2020: Since the time of first sharing these ideas in early March 2020, more and more places have already started following some of these suggestions. We need to make sure we keep up the momentum and see these beneficial changes happen in more places.
At present we face the challenge of providing people with safe forms of transport in which they do not occupy enclosed spaces with others and can maintain a safe social distance. The hazards of public transport right now are well documented, but many are falsely assuming that car journeys are safe. A car is an even more enclosed space than a train or bus, so the only way it’s going to be safer is if you travel alone or with people you know for sure to be virus free and take precautions.
Hordes of people avoiding public transport by travelling in cars alone is a scenario we must avoid for obvious health and environmental reasons. The virus may just be Mother nature’s wake up call, reminding us of our biggest problem – global warming. We absolutely need to take this fleeting window of a chance to do better.
1. While we have less traffic, widen and improve existing bike lanes and cycle-superhighways to enhance cycling safety and allow greater social distancing. Any cycle superhighways should have at least two lanes in either direction (slow and fast) with clear barriers to divide the two directions and further enhance safety. All efforts should be made to separate cyclists from vehicle traffic and pedestrians – even if it means elevating the cycle pathway over some or all roads.
2. Legalise electric scooters as a matter of urgency and other allow them to be used on the improved bike lanes and cycle-superhighways – henceforth ‘greenways’.
3. Rather than peppering a city with inadequate bike lanes, simply take a small number of roads and devote them entirely to green lightweight transport devices by banning cars: minimal to no infrastructure required, maximum safety and social distancing, maximum encouragement to get people out of cars and onto bikes and scooters, massively enhanced air quality for residents on those roads, maximum fun and completely reversible in future if need be. North-South and East-West routes converging in the city centre would be a perfect start to allow speedy and safe long distance travel! See a good example from Beijing HERE.
THE TIME IS NOW
If local governments do this now there will be far less pushback than if they wait. This is what we should have done long, long before anyway, but we’ve been blinded by our obsession with cars for so long that it hasn’t happened in most places. Smoke gets in your eyes. Nevermind, we can do it now, we must do it now.
THE KINDS OF CHANGES WE NEED TO SEE:
In Germany, Paris, New Zealand and elsewhere local governments have created pop-up cycle lanes using various removable materials. Later on these widened bike ways could be made permanent.
In Birmingham, UK, pollution has risen with excessive car use in recent years. The local government created two high-quality cycle superhighways which have been criticised for hardly being used. As soon as we legalise electric scooters it’s obvious that they will become well-used and this will help to clear the air. The existing two cycle-superhighways form a disconnected South-to-North pathway – we now need an East-to-West path as well please.
In London various cycle-superhighways are now becoming victims of their own success and are far too busy to allow for safe social distancing. They’re also often quite unsafe given that they’re bi-direction without separation – so cyclists pass each other at high speeds. Identical paths parallel to or elevated above the existing ones should be created without delay. Then each cycle-superhighway can become one way only – safer in every respect. If parallel, then we could simple allocate one of the traffic lanes for now, and later on make the change permanent.
We need to:
- Improve and widen cycleways/bike lanes – then give them a new name such as ‘greenways’ or ‘greenlanes’.
- Legalise electric scooters & some other non-polluting lightweight portable transport tools & allow the scooters on the ‘Greenways’.
- Devote just two or three long roads in each city to green transport gadgets to allow safer faster travel across the city.
Let’s do this now please. If we do, we may look back one day and see that in fact it was the virus that saved us.
To see our letter written in early March 2020 to the Future of transport team in the UK click HERE