Hounslow's Streetspace programme
The Covid-19 pandemic has radically altered how we use our transport network. Local trips, often made on foot or by bike, have noticeably increased. Public transport use has fallen dramatically due to concerns about virus transmission and increased take up of remote working. Trips to and from the airport, which have a big impact on the borough, have reduced in line with a radical drop in aviation activity. These changes in how we have moved about over the last few months have had some positive impacts – some pollutants are down 20-30% against the 2019 average and there has been a notable reduction in transport related carbon emissions. Walking and cycling (known as ‘active travel’ modes) are good forms of exercise and contribute to improved health and mental wellbeing. With fewer cars on the road, safety has also improved, though speeding traffic remains an issue of concern in places.
Increasing active travel levels and reducing transport related emissions are key objectives of the council’s Transport Strategy, and Air Quality and Climate Emergency action plans, so it is key that we try to lock-in some of the positive changes experienced in the last few weeks wherever possible.
In addition, in many locations it is now necessary to rethink how we allocate space on our highway and ensure that sufficient room is available for people to carry on moving around and accessing services on foot and by bike, whilst also observing social distancing. In many cases the provision of more space for people is essential if businesses are going to be able to reopen safely under their new operating requirements. Giving more people the option of making their journeys on foot or bike by improving comfort, safety and convenience for those using these forms of travel will also help keep the roads clear for those that have less choice in making their trips in a vehicle, limiting the cost of congestion as businesses start to reopen.
To respond to these challenges and opportunities, and in line with new statutory guidance issued by the Government and the Mayor of London, we have developed the Hounslow Streetspace Programme.
This programme has been developed in three phases:
Phase 1 - Immediate emergency response measures that could be taken quickly to accommodate requirements for social distancing and deliver improvements for walking and cycling.
Phase 2 - Further borough-wide measures to improve the safety of the network for those walking and cycling and create space for business to safely reopen in our town centres. This phase has been informed largely by resident feedback provided through our Streetspace consultation and through engagement with key stakeholders such as schools.
Phase 3 – A strategic review of the network using the latest data to identify other locations where Streetspace measures could be implemented in future, and determination of whether any of the trial measures introduced in phases 1 and 2 should be made permanent.
The sort of measures that are being considered and implemented are set out in the government guidance and include:
- Installing ‘pop-up’ cycle facilities with a minimum level of physical separation from volume traffic; for example, mandatory cycle lanes, using light segregation features such as flexible plastic wands; or quickly converting traffic lanes into temporary cycle lanes (suspending parking bays where necessary); widening existing cycle lanes to enable cyclists to maintain distancing. Facilities should be segregated as far as possible, i.e. with physical measures separating cyclists and other traffic. Lanes indicated by road markings only are very unlikely to be sufficient to deliver the level of change needed, especially in the longer term.
- Using cones and barriers: to widen footways along lengths of road, particularly outside shops and transport hubs; to provide more space at bus stops to allow people to queue and socially distance; to widen pedestrian refuges and crossings (both formal and informal) to enable people to cross roads safely and at a distance.
- Encouraging walking and cycling to school, for example through the introduction of more ‘School Streets’. Pioneered in London, these are areas around schools where motor traffic is restricted at pick-up and drop-off times, during term-time. They can be effective in encouraging more walking and cycling, particularly where good facilities exist on routes to the school and where the parents, children and school are involved as part of the scheme development.
- Reducing speed limits: 20mph speed limits are being more widely adopted as an appropriate speed limit for residential roads, and many through streets in built-up areas. 20mph limits alone will not be sufficient to meet the needs of active travel, but in association with other measures, reducing the speed limit can provide a more attractive and safer environment for walking and cycling. NB Most of Hounslow is already subject to 20mph restrictions.
- Introducing pedestrian and cycle zones: restricting access for motor vehicles at certain times (or at all times) to specific streets, or networks of streets, particularly town centres and high streets. This will enable active travel but also social distancing in places where people are likely to gather.
- Modal filters (also known as filtered permeability); closing roads to motor traffic, for example by using planters or large barriers. Often used in residential areas, this can create neighbourhoods that are low-traffic or traffic free, creating a more pleasant environment that encourages people to walk and cycle, and improving safety. NB: In effect this is taken to mean the restriction of through traffic to major (generally classified as those with an A or B number) roads where possible.
- Providing additional cycle parking facilities at key locations, such as outside stations and in high streets, to accommodate an increase in cycling, for example by repurposing parking bays to accommodate cycle racks.
- Changes to junction design to accommodate more cyclists – for example, extending Advanced Stop Lines at traffic lights to the maximum permitted depth of 7.5 metres where possible.
- ‘Whole-route’ approaches to create corridors for buses, cycles and access only on key routes into town and city centres.
- Identifying and bringing forward permanent schemes already planned, for example under Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans, and that can be constructed relatively quickly.
Details of our Streetspace programme is provided on the following page.
In addition, the council is also progressing a range of promotions (cycle training, bike loan schemes and maintenance sessions) to support those who are looking to start cycling again. More information here: www.hounslow.gov.uk/CycleHounslow