// Large areas of central London to be made car-free as lockdown eased
// Experts say it is crucial to encourage walking & cycling as physical distancing is impossible on crowded transport
Swathes of central London are set to be closed to cars, lorries and vans to allow people to walk and cycle safely as the coronavirus lockdown is gradually eased.
Yesterday, London Mayor Sadiq Khan revealed plans to make the main streets between London Bridge and Shoreditch, Euston and Waterloo, and Old Street and Holborn limited to buses, pedestrians and cyclists only.
Meanwhile, some streets within the Cannon Street precinct would only allow pedestrians and cyclists – banning motor vehicles all together.
- Non-essential retail to reopen in June as govt unveils lockdown exit plan
- Coronavirus: New safety guidance for retailers reopening stores
- Should UK retailers observe EU store re-openings to better prepare?
Other streets in central London would undergo improvements for pedestrians and cyclists, while buses and other vehicles are still permitted.
Exact details of the car-free zones, such as a time frame, have not yet been confirmed.
Nonetheless, the move would affects thousands of retailers that trade in central London.
The Mayor of London’s office said work on the road closures will begin immediately and should be completed within six weeks.
Officials also said it was was working with boroughs to implement similar restrictions on the minor roads they manage within the area.
Experts have said it was crucial to encourage walking and cycling as people return to work as physical distancing is impossible on crowded public transport and a surge in car use would cause gridlock and an increase in air pollution.
“It will take a monumental effort from all Londoners to maintain safe social distancing on public transport as lockdown restrictions are gradually eased,” Khan said.
“That means we have to keep the number of people using public transport as low as possible.
“And we can’t see journeys formerly taken on public transport replaced with car usage because our roads would immediately become unusably blocked and toxic air pollution would soar.”
The New West End Company, which represents 600 businesses across the West End, said the car-free zones would make central London’s shopping destinations a different place this summer.
“This summer is set to look a lot different across the West End and opening our minds to new possibilities,” New West End Company chief executive Jace Tyrrell told Retail Gazette.
“Across our businesses we’re seeing a real unity and community spirit, reminiscent of the 2012 Olympics, with local authorities, residents and the businesses all pulling together.
“The international visitors who would usually make up half our visitors are likely to be absent this summer, so there is a real opportunity for Londoners to embrace their local high streets and find new ways of reaching it on foot and by bicycle.
“Here at the New West End Company we’re working with Westminster City Council on proposals to install extra cycle racks, clear street markings and signage to help encourage both colleagues and our customers off public transport and into the open air.”