Public Health and what happened in Larkhall

Whatever your opinion of the pavement widening it is there to protect you and your family and is required and funded by the government. For many, myself included, who are shielding or shielding somebody the simple fact you *know* you can join a queue outside a local shop and not have people get within 2 metres of you is an unbelievable huge relief. I cannot tell you the number of times I have walked away from crowded shops.

Studies are showing social distancing and use of face masks are critical in tackling this horrendous virus and I suspect we will all be required to wear face masks in the coming weeks when out and about. We have not got this virus under control and the R value in the south west is the highest for England.

Limits on what could be done.

These measures are not perfect. They create problems for cycling by making ‘escape’ impossible while riding past the barriers. They make crossing roads more prescriptive. BUT they *are* safe given the limited legal options (parking suspension) open to the council given the required timeframe they needed to act within.

On the 15th of June (tomorrow) all shops in the high street are open for business if they want to be. The government want a “green recover” and our high streets need to be safe places to spend money.

Support your local shops!

I am asking you to do one thing. Use your local shops. Don’t give up on them because you cannot park directly outside of them. Make that conscious decision to walk a bit further. Driving to Morrisons, parking up, and using the butchers at the back of the supermarket is a longer walk than parking at New Oriel Hall and using Larkhall Butchers. Walk and cycle if you can and reduce the pressure on parking. Just do not give up on them.

Statement from the council

“As many of you are no doubt aware the Government is very concerned our health during a major pandemic in which over 40,000 people have died. The virus has not gone away and we do not have a vaccine, our only option is to maintain adequate social distancing measures that give everyone the space to stay safe whilst moving around in public spaces

Government has asked all Councils to put in place schemes to widen pavements and remove parking in areas where there is significant footfall, so that everyone can practice social distancing measures safely.

Larkhall is an area that has been identified as a location where many people gather to carry out shopping on very narrow pavements.  Over the last few months traders and residents have worked very hard to make sure that all are as safe as possible.  We are now moving into a new phase in this pandemic, when many who have been shielding for months would like to return to the high street and use local shops.

The reason why barriers have been put in place is to protect public health.  Therefore the recent actions of some local residents who have reacted very negatively to this scheme and actively remove these barriers is a threat to us all and will impact on public health. This behaviour is unlawful and a threat to public health.  If you are aware of anyone taking part in this action please could you notify the police.

Concern for the traders who have worked so tirelessly on behalf of everyone in the last few months has been vocalised. Before these measures were put in traders were alerted to the measures and they made a number of useful suggestions but due to time constraints and financing these could not be included at this time. The Council has every intention of continuing a conversation with the traders about the scheme once it has settled.

We fully recognise that the new measures will require those driving to reconsider their journeys and where they park.  An Equalities Impact Assessment has been carried out.
There are 2 car parks in Larkhall and we would suggest that residents use these or where possible walk or cycle to the shops.  We urge everyone to shop local and stay safe at a time when public health and protecting the NHS is vital.”

Cllr Joanna Wright
Joint Cabinet Member for Transport Services

Cllr Rob Appleyard
Cabinet Member: Adult Services, Safeguarding and Public Health

This is not the end.

In the coming weeks expect further changes. The government announced £3.7m in indicative allocation to WECA to implement the issued Statutory Guidance.  WECA have announced a £3m bridging loan to help BaNES, Bristol, and South Glos get started immediately. The government issued an exceptionally strongly worded letter to keep the focus on delivering Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and pop-up cycle lanes. There is still so much that needs doing to prepare ourselves for the re-opening of the country safely.

This video explains why, in a world where public transport is at 10-20% capacity, we are heading for complete grid-lock unless we deal with this head on.

Full List of Statutory Guidance Measures

  • Installing ‘pop-up’ cycle facilities with a minimum level of physical separation from volume traffic; for example, mandatory cycle lanes, using light segregation features such as flexible plastic wands; or quickly converting traffic lanes into temporary cycle lanes (suspending parking bays where necessary); widening existing cycle lanes to enable cyclists to maintain distancing. Facilities should be segregated as far as possible, i.e. with physical measures separating cyclists and other traffic. Lanes indicated by road markings only are very unlikely to be sufficient to deliver the level of change needed, especially in the longer term.
  • Using cones and barriers: to widen footways along lengths of road, particularly outside shops and transport hubs; to provide more space at bus stops to allow people to queue and socially distance; to widen pedestrian refuges and crossings (both formal and informal) to enable people to cross roads safely and at a distance.
  • Encouraging walking and cycling to school, for example through the introduction of more ‘school streets’. Pioneered in London, these are areas around schools where motor traffic is restricted at pick-up and drop-off times, during term-time. They can be effective in encouraging more walking and cycling, particularly where good facilities exist on routes to the school and where the parents, children and school are involved as part of the scheme development.
  • Reducing speed limits: 20mph speed limits are being more widely adopted as an appropriate speed limit for residential roads, and many through streets in built-up areas. 20mph limits alone will not be sufficient to meet the needs of active travel, but in association with other measures, reducing the speed limit can provide a more attractive and safer environment for walking and cycling.
  • Introducing pedestrian and cycle zones: restricting access for motor vehicles at certain times (or at all times) to specific streets, or networks of streets, particularly town centres and high streets. This will enable active travel but also social distancing in places where people are likely to gather.
  • Modal filters (also known as filtered permeability); closing roads to motor traffic, for example by using planters or large barriers. Often used in residential areas, this can create neighbourhoods that are low-traffic or traffic free, creating a more pleasant environment that encourages people to walk and cycle, and improving safety.
  • Providing additional cycle parking facilities at key locations, such as outside stations and in high streets, to accommodate an increase in cycling, for example by repurposing parking bays to accommodate cycle racks.
  • Changes to junction design to accommodate more cyclists – for example, extending Advanced Stop Lines at traffic lights to the maximum permitted depth of 7.5 metres where possible.
  • ‘Whole-route’ approaches to create corridors for buses, cycles and access only on key routes into town and city centres.
  • Identifying and bringing forward permanent schemes already planned, for example under Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans, and that can be constructed relatively quickly.

Stay safe.

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