Following an announcement by the Transport Secretary that the government wants to establish at least one UK city centre as a zero emission zone, Labour councillors have urged City of York Council to bid to become the first to achieve this.
A Government Covid-19 transport statement over the weekend called on local councils to make ‘significant changes’ to how public space is used to help people get around safely, and this should also be acted on. The need for physical distancing to continue for some time, even as lockdown restrictions are gradually relaxed in the coming months, means a comprehensive review of roads and footpaths is needed to ensure that the public can move around without risking unnecessary exposure to Covid-19.
Councillor Danny Myers, Labour Group Leader, said: “Labour called for the prioritisation of safe travel corridors across the city around three weeks ago, as it became clear that physical distancing would be impossible to practice under existing road and footpath layouts. The Government’s statement over the weekend that it expects significant changes to facilitate more cycling and walking presents opportunities for City of York Council to improve its long-standing problem of congestion.
“The public health argument for a reallocation of road space is strong, and presents York with a chance to transform the way people get around. Currently 25% of journeys nationally taken by car each year are under one mile. We need to see plans for widened cycle lanes and options for streets to become cycle and bus-only roads, with bold targets for increased cycling and walking, so that our city doesn’t get crippled by traffic, post-lockdown”.
The Government is predicting capacity on public transport will reduce significantly during the Covid-19 pandemic with physical distancing measures put in place to keep people safe. It sees increased walking and cycling as two key ways in which people can safely move around and continue to go about their daily business, whether that be travelling to and from work, for daily exercise or for simple everyday leisure pursuits.
Cllr. Myers has written to the council leader, Coun. Keith Aspden, seeking the council’s support for both the reallocation of road space set out by the Government, and for York to become the country’s first zero emission city.