Road closures and low traffic schemes introduced during COVID-19 lockdown causing problems for drivers
Road closures and low traffic initiative schemes introduced by local council during the coronavirus lockdown “aren’t working well” after causing “problems for drivers”.
The new schemes have contributed to “increased congestion” and “access problems” for emergency vehicles in a major safety risk, according to the RAC. The government offered council extra funding if they reallocated road space to people walking or cycling to encourage “active travel” and enable social distancing measures.
But the government said measures should be taken “as swiftly as possible” and “within weeks” which ensured councils were not able to properly consult on the changes and look at the possible consequences.
The RAC has urged that the government should require councils to thoroughly assess any new plans before they are put into place.
They revealed this was crucial to help “improve the design” of any changes which could cut down on risks and unintended consequences.
RAC head of roads policy, Nicholas Lyes said: “Unfortunately, it also seems there are some schemes that aren’t working well and are causing problems for residents, drivers and businesses.
“Rather than just ignoring these issues, authorities should be willing to listen to everyone affected and make changes to rectify them.
“Councils should also be actively looking at impact assessments and monitoring all schemes to ensure that unintended consequences – such as increased congestion and displaced traffic, worse journey times, increased difficulty for delivery drivers doing their jobs and access problems for emergency vehicles – are properly understood and avoided.
“The fact that the Government gave authorities just weeks to introduce schemes for the reallocation of road space is a reason why some schemes aren’t working.
“Councils were told they did not need to consult – yet if they didn’t take the cash on offer, they risked missing out on it altogether.
“As the lockdown has eased, councils now have an opportunity to consult properly and we believe the Government should require that they do so for new schemes.
Several councils have already reversed the temporary road closure schemas after backlash from residents who have become angered at the changes.
Sheffield City Council adopted the changes in July by closing one lane in each direction on the A61 to create a new cycle lane.
However, the road will now return to its usual condition after images showed a police car struggling to get past the traffic.
Over 2,700 residents in Brighton and Hove have signed a petition to remove the new cycle lanes which they described as a “stupid idea”.
RAC spokesperson Nicholas Lyes said councils should change their approach from widespread schemes to more specialised initiatives.
They have called for local areas to spend money reducing safety hazards for cyclists and installing extra park and ride facilities across the region.
The RAC says money should also be spent on infrastructure for electric bikes and scooters to offer an extra form of public transport.
Mr Lyes said: “We know that safety concerns remain a barrier to getting people out of their vehicles and on to two wheels so there’s also an argument for local authorities to look at spending some of this money on areas which cause the greatest safety hazards for cyclists, namely junctions and roundabouts.
“By tackling these, more drivers may be encouraged to use bicycles for some of their shorter journeys.
“Councils should also be considering how they can reduce through-traffic into towns and cities.
“We believe there’s an urgent case for creating more park and ride-type facilities, potentially taking advantage of not just buses but cycling, walking and scooting.
“Electric bicycles, and if fully legalised electric scooters should also be offered at such facilities to maximise options for those open to using such schemes.
“Managing road space is an extremely difficult job for urban planners, but in order to bring about lasting benefits for all, it’s essential any changes take proper account of the needs of residents, businesses and road users.”