Berlin says, “Ride to flatten the Curve!”
Australian health and transport experts have formally called on decision makers to enact urgent measures to support safe walking and cycling and social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 100 health and transport experts have co-signed an open letter to government decision makers to create space for safer walking and cycling.
In a media release, Dr. Ben Beck (from the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University) said, “In order to provide safe physical activity and social distancing for adults and children to exercise and move about their neighbourhoods, we need decision makers to enable rapid roll-out of social distancing infrastructure to support walking and cycling.
“We have seen numerous examples across the world of governments introducing reduced speed limits, widened footpaths, emergency cycle lanes and the closure of roads. As yet, we have not seen a similar response in Australia, and we need to act now.”
‘Pop-up’ CV-19 bike lanes in Berlin, Germany.
The letter was sent to all Australian State and Territory Government transport ministers and co-signed by the experts which includes a host of academics from Universities across Australia along with professionals from major public health and planning organisations.
Leading cycling nations such as Germany have already taken steps. In Berlin for example, the reduction of motor traffic by 40% along with avoidance of public transport along brought a sharp increase in the numbers of bike riders, prompting councils to introduce pop-up bike space and, for example, repurposing lanes on roads into additional bicycle lanes.
Pop-up protected bikeway, Berlin.
Progress usually takes years but necessity has fast-tracked the traffic changes and it has just taken days to approved these temporary lanes and cycling spaces. The Berlin initiative prompted 133 other German cities to submit applications for pop-up bike lanes.
Other cities and regions across the globe such as Bogotá, New York, Mexico City, Minneapolis, Denver and Vancouver, to name just a few, have also made traffic changes to allow more space for pedestrians and bike riders to travel safely.
New Zealand also leads the way and under a Tactical Urbanism approach is providing 90% funding for cities who widen walkways and create temporary cycleways.
This current shift in transport is also an opportunity for Governments to implement permanent improvements and allow people to return to towns and cities where walking and cycling are efficient, convenient and safer. The return of society to normalcy will be a gradual and staggered approach allowing an easier adaption to improved transportation and infrastructure.
We Ride Spokesperson, Stephen Hodge says “Through the COVID-19 pandemic cycling has been a vital option for people to maintain physical activity and get around their communities in a way that avoids some of the perceived risks associated with mass transit. The result has been increases in people riding bikes and significant sales of bicycles and repair services.”
The time is now to rapidly open up safer walking and cycling spaces – not just temporary options but permanent improvements that will deliver lasting benefits for society. What action will we see in SA??
CV-19: More bikes = widened bike lanes in Germany.