Central Government issued statutory guidance to councils to enable cycling and walking, as well as social distancing in town and city centres. A firm letter from DfT to local authorities stated that measures should meaningfully challenge the status quo of transport or risk not being funded (you can see excerpts of this letter here: https://www.forbes.com/
sites/carltonreid/2020/05/29/ department-for-transport- letter-to-uk-councils-close- main-roads-to-cars-reallocate- road-space-to-cyclists- pedestrians/#28915b8a5a3d
I submitted a letter (attached) thanks to the immense help from many of you on what measures you would like to see. I also included several appendices of spreadsheets, drawings and documents that some of you had created to articulate what needs to be done in your view.
This letter was well received by officers in the transport department of Coventry City Council.
The funding from DfT for “Active Travel Emergency Measures” (£17.2m) is split into two tranches, 1 and 2, Tranche 1 is for 20% of the total awarded to the region with the “rest” later this summer (reading between the lines, once DfT have assessed that councils haven’t wasted the first bit of budget). By my rough estimations, although it hasn’t been confirmed, Coventry would have around £600k.
Coventry City Council submitted its bid by the West Midlands Combined Authority; the bid went in by the deadline of last Friday at 4pm. As of Tuesday morning, no-one has yet heard back on their bids but councils are largely progressing with plans on the assumption.
The West Midlands Combined Authority issued this press release which detailed one key scheme from each local authority within the group: https://www.tfwm.org.
uk/news/big-summer-of-cycling- and-walking-campaign-launches- with-plans-to-improve-safety- on-roads-and-high-streets/
Coventry’s contribution to this press release was “a pop-up cycle lane from Coventry city centre to the Canal Basin.”
I received a phone call yesterday to update me on the plans for Coventry, which to my knowledge, have not been shared in the public domain yet. I have asked if they intend to a news release and it is my understanding that they will get these measures all out via their comms department.
Before I give an assessment of the measures for Tranche 1, I’ll lay out what I believe them to be, as it was told to me:
– Road Space Reallocation: City centre to Canal Basin – two way cycle track via Upper Wells Street, under ring road, reallocating a lane on slip road and then past Wickes. This is looking like it will be via water filled barriers (rather than bolt down wands, which are in short supply from manufacturers currently). The Council feel cones will just get moved out of the way by motorists. The logic here is that it would connect to existing cycle routes 1 and 2.
– Road Space Reallocation: Less clear on detail than above, but there are road space reallocation plans to build a cycle track on Stoney Stanton Road towards the college. This would connect from the existing route from Millenium Place to Swanswell Point.
– Modal filter: The start of a traffic cell approach within the city centre. They intend to create a modal filter around The Burges to improve social distancing and create more cycle permeability through that area rather than a big loop around. In fact, UberEATS delivery drivers for McDonald’s are already experiencing some of the effects of these plans as anti-parking bollards have been placed up: https://www.
coventrytelegraph.net/news/ coventry-news/uber-eats- driver-says-council-18388899
– They will also be re-starting funding for cycle training (as mentioned in their latest e-newsletter https://content.
– This is in addition to the daytime closure for cars of Coventry High Street: https://www.
coventrytelegraph.net/news/ coventry-news/coventrys-high- street-close-cars-18234456
– I raised 20mph limits citywide and they are coming back to me on this. It’s part of the measures recommended by central Government and my understanding is that Coventry has already approved these measures, but not implemented them.
For Tranche 2, I believe there are plans to:
– Implement some of the ideas put forwards around Warwick University; this is being prioritised later in the summer in tranche 2 because there are currently very few people on campus, in their view. I have spoken directly to Warwick University too who have been pushing the council hard on measures for active travel; the university is totally on board.
– Tackle health inequality with measures around the Foleshill Road
– Accelerate Binley Road segregated scheme to kick off by Autumn latest, hopefully sooner (The West Midlands Combined Authority are providing the funding for this and I sense they’ve put Coventry under a bit of pressure to bring this forward).
– School Streets for September
– And Coventry City Council will finally use Commonplace via TfWM’s licence, a tool to gather feedback from residents. I’m aware there is Widen My Path, which is being used at the moment, but this will help us feed into longer-term measures to feed into a LCWIP (Local Cycling Walking Infrastructure Plan), which Coventry don’t have, but need (and it’s something I’ve pushed them on). This might sound like a small development but it will allow us to keep a permanent record of the suggestions made by residents and Coventry’s action or inaction on these. It should help us engage even more of the community to support active travel and road safety.
What do I think?
I am a natural optimist so hoped for more and Tranche 1, at first sight, was underwhelming. I should say that we know there is very little political will for cycling in CCC and this, along with recent plans for Coundon, represent a total step change in what we’re used to. There are councils, such as Leeds, who have developed much more significant plans: https://southleedslife.
com/council-announces- emergency-walking-and-cycling- plans/. That said, if you inspect the map for Leeds, much of the impressive network is “routes under investigation”. This, for me, is where the political will comes in. I believe that the Council are hoping Tranche 1 goes through without a hitch and that Tranche 2 then has more support. They’re not willing to give too much away given cycling is nowhere near within the status quo for transport in the city. Councils like Leeds are being much bolder and setting out their stall from the beginning, which Coventry is not. This isn’t surprising, but it is still disappointing.
How useful the new pop up cycle lanes will be remains to be seen and many of you will have views on this; their logic has been to “connect the gaps in the network”. It’s important that these lanes aren’t left unused which will attract attention from locals and motorists.
It’s also worth noting that there is much conversation on these measures in other areas of the country; some Councils are caving in. Some councils are refusing to do anything at all. Nearby in Kenilworth, residents have gone hard against plans to pedestrianise the Warwick Road high street there. That said, in Birmingham, they do have very good plans and political will to see it through; it takes somebody who totally believes in active travel holding the cabinet position and this isn’t the case in Coventry.
It is therefore my view that we need to be positive and continue to engage into tranche 2. Councillors will sway dependent on how much aggro they get from residents; so it’s really essential, in my view, that everybody engages positively and encourages to explain and sell the benefits in an environment where shopkeepers and the public are scared of the new normal.
I also want to bring attention to the consultation for the new Coundon to City Centre new segregated cycle track. I must say this has been worked on at immense pace for the Council as it’s part of the Local Air Quality Measures and, while there are some comments, it really is a high quality plan. I have attached some comments produced for me from a professional active travel planner which I will feed back, but it’s really important that we respond positively to the consultation and acknowledge this is a game changer for active travel in Coventry. The link to the consultation is here: https://letstalk.
coventry.gov.uk/coundon- cycleway-consultation and there is already some media coverage here: https://www. coventrytelegraph.net/news/ coventry-news/plans-first- dedicated-cycleway-coventry- 18388447
There is also a strong likelihood of another cycle track by Spon End at J7 into the city centre as part of the LAQAP, I’ll be keeping an eye on this to ensure it is also of high quality design.
I think it would also be helpful if you were to write to your local councillors saying that you welcome the Council’s initial response to the emergency measures, but that much more is required in Tranche 2, encouraging especially low cost measures that can make a big impact outside of the city centre, such as modal filters/low traffic neighbourhoods, and any other measures you feel worth putting forward in your area. It is also worth copying in relevant Cabinet members, namely Jim O’Boyle, Patricia Hetherton and Kamran Caan.
I should say that I sense CCC officers have been working very hard on this and, compared to what we’re used to, there is what seems like a flurry of activity (accepting there could be lots more being done in these times). The next step is to make sure plans go through with strong public support and that Councillors, who are reluctant on active travel, see that it’s a politically safe move – as has been shown in Leicester.
I would also keep an eye on the lure of the motor industry in the Midlands. While his latest video from Mayor Andy Street says the right things (despite the questionable choice of backdrop) – https://twitter.com/andy4wm/
status/1270251834238795778?s= 20 – there is much focus from him on rescuing the motor industry and getting people back on public transport (which is commendable generally, but difficult in these times of social distancing). Some ideas have been put forward by that industry, including scrappage schemes to encourage people to buy even more cars: https://www.telegraph. co.uk/news/2020/06/07/boris- johnson-considers-giving- drivers-6000-diesel-petrol- car/