21 July, 2020
Social Distancing & Slow Streets in Spitalfields
Cities around the world are increasingly reacting to the changes incurred by Covid-19. Public transport systems, shops, restaurants and workplaces have all mandated social distancing measures to keep the public safe from transmission of the virus.
Such changes have triggered a change in consumer behaviour, as an increasing number of people choose to avoid enclosed spaces; pointedly public transport, as many remain reluctant to board overcrowded trains and buses. Alternatively, a burgeoning contingency are opting to cycle or walk across capitals instead.
A recent article published by Property Week highlights how cities are reacting to global behavioural changes in enacting the “Slow Streets” campaign; a campaign designed to reappropriate road space into walking and cycling routes. Cities from Paris to Bogota are extending foot paths and cycle lanes to encourage city dwellers to cycle or walk rather than drive.
Changes to accommodate ad hoc bike lanes were initially delineated as temporary measures during lockdowns, however, as worldwide emissions dropped, governments fast-tracked the process to implement cycle lanes to keep apace with the rate of low emissions.
In London, commuters have provided countenance to enforce such changes. According to a recent article from The Evening Standard, first-time buyers and single professionals are prioritising residential destinations that allow them to feasibly commute to work via walking or cycling.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has reacted to behavioural changes by adopting his own version of the international “Slow Streets” campaign, the “Streetspace” programme. The main crux of his programme sets to transform busy streets into pedestrian-friendly, car-free zones.
Bishopsgate, the main thoroughfare between Shoreditch and London Bridge, is one of the key targets of Khan’s programme. Travel restrictions across the thoroughfare will be imposed between 7 am until 7pm; aiming to limit motor traffic and to create a safer, sustainable and an attractive space for cyclists.
Whilst Khan’s “Streetspace” programme is likely to improve air quality and lower carbon emissions in London, it is possible that it will have an adverse effect on getting workers to go back to the office, as commuters that live further out from the City will struggle to get to work on foot or by bike.
In addition, the prospect of going to work on foot or by bike is a foreign concept to commuters across the capital, as many who are now limiting contact with public transport, have relied on the London Underground network as a main source of travel.
However, an increasing number of young professionals are favouring affordable accommodation in boroughs such as Tower Hamlets and Hackney, as many are keen to be back at the office, and prefer to live in a destination that is closer to work. Additionally, many families seeking out bigger accommodation are considering areas such as Hackney as they offer a roster of green spaces.
In turn, Khan’s “Streetspace” programme could very well pay dividends in reducing car emissions, in encouraging many to cycle to work and by improving overall morale.