Southampton City Council is to deliver a package of transformative transport measures designed to encourage safe and active travel as the country comes out of lockdown.
The £4.1m Green Transport Recovery Plan, to be delivered by the council’s highways partner Balfour Beatty Living Places, sets out a series of interventions to address two key challenges identified by the council.
Firstly, it will enable people to continue adhering to social distancing guidelines as people start to travel more and, secondly, it will support people to keep walking and cycling following a sharp rise in active travel across the city.
Travel patterns in Southampton have changed dramatically during the current lockdown period. There was a 58% reduction in road traffic levels since the week before the lockdown came into effect to 8 May 2020.
Similarly, average cycle numbers have risen by 63%, with over 5,000 cycles counted on VE Day alone.
These new trends have resulted in lower pollution levels and an improvement in local air quality, specifically a reduction in nitrogen dioxide (NO2).
The council said it is now keen to support and maintain these health and environmental benefits alongside the council’s Green City Plan by putting in place measures that will support people getting around safely and actively, as the lockdown is gradually lifted.
As well as new measures to facilitate continued active travel and minimise potential congestion as people return to work, Southampton City Council’s Green Transport Recovery Plan also includes some already planned infrastructure projects that will now be accelerated to meet immediate demand.
According to the council, measures will be implemented in three stages to ensure that the city’s transport system responds effectively to the evolving challenges of the pandemic in the short-, medium- and long-term.
The plan prioritises the ability of key workers to travel to work safely and the safety of pupils getting to and from school as they start to reopen.
It also sets out the council’s plans to work with bus operators and retail businesses as they put in place social distancing measures as demand increases.
Furthermore, the plan outlines schemes that will support social distancing and maximise the opportunities for increased active travel.
Measures include the creation of additional space around bus stops, shops and other places where queuing may be necessary.
Street closures around schools at the beginning and end of the day aim to create a safer and more spacious environment for walking, cycling and scooting, while spare road space will be used to create parklets providing additional footway space and cycle parking.
Further changes include the reallocation of road space and prioritisation of pedestrians and cyclists at pedestrian crossings.
A number of cycle enhancements will also be made including the introduction of temporary cycle lanes and cycle parking in the city centre.
Completion of an Active Travel Zone will include targeted road closures, priority changes and cycle parking, as well as bus lanes with cycling permitted.
Councillor Steve Leggett, cabinet member for Green City and Place, said: “Despite the difficulties faced, the lockdown measures have translated into some key positives for the city, with increased rates in active travel resulting in lower levels of road traffic and pollution.
“We want to see the reduction in emission levels continue; the recent data is going to help us learn more about the improvements in our local air quality and to shape future plans.
“Addressing road transport emissions by reducing the numbers of vehicles on our roads, promoting active travel and encouraging the switch to electric vehicles will all be key to creating a carbon neutral city.”
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