ePetition details

Safer Social Distancing on our Streets

We the undersigned petition the County Council to take emergency action to ensure that increasing numbers of pedestrians and cyclists can travel safely and without fear throughout Hertfordshire, whilst still ensuring appropriate social distancing to protect public health. This should take into account those measures set-out in the statutory guidance Traffic Management Act 2004: Network Management in Response to COVID-19; specifically, to include the following: • Use of emergency Traffic Regulation Orders to introduce a 20 mile per hour speed restriction in all built-up areas. • Limiting all unnecessary parking of vehicles on pavements, with the exception of permitted loading and unloading, to ensure pedestrians have access to the fullest space available. • A temporary widening of pavements and pedestrian areas to ensure that social distancing can be practiced effectively. • The creation of dedicated, physically separated cycle lanes (where practicable) to ensure that cyclists can travel with minimal risk from adjacent vehicles

As our eyes turn to the future following the unprecedented events and tragic losses of the last two months, we are all going to have to adjust to a ‘new normal’. Along with heightened vigilance around health and hygiene, it is likely that forms of social distancing will need to be maintained for at least the next 12-18 months.

Over the coming weeks and months, as people start to return to work and make additional journeys outside of their homes, it will be increasingly challenging to maintain the necessary safe distances in towns and cities which have predominantly been designed with roads, traffic and private vehicles as the main priority; leaving pedestrians and cyclists to use whatever spaces are left over. How can you maintain a safe distance of 2 metres between people on a pavement which is only a metre wide? How can a wheelchair user or parent pushing a buggy safely pass when a car is parked on the pavement? How can cyclists safely use the road when cars are driving past at 30 miles an hour? How can the above happen simultaneously without serious risk to all concerned?

The lockdown measures have seen a welcome reduction in vehicular road traffic and an increase in people choosing to walk or cycle when they need to make necessary journeys (up to 70% in the case of cycling). However, as these measures are eased, there is an acknowledgement that public transport will not be able to operate at the same capacity as before whilst maintaining social distancing; leaving people with a choice between walking and cycling or driving a car.

The benefits of using ‘active travel’, such as walking or cycling, have been well covered – they are good for the environment and good for health and wellbeing. However, with our towns and cities as they are, it will simply not be possible to accommodate an increased number of pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles whilst still enabling suitable social distancing to avoid a resurgence of Covid-19 cases. The Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, recognised this in his speech on Saturday, 9 May; announcing a £250 million emergency fund for local authorities in England to introduce measures to help create safer spaces for all users of our roads. Subsequent updated statutory guidance from the Department of Transport has given this legal imperative.

Started by: Thomas Day (East Hertfordshire Green Party)

This ePetition ran from 13/05/2020 to 13/07/2020 and has now finished.

201 people signed this ePetition.

Council response

Thank you for the meeting that took place on the 16 June to discuss the petition that was submitted on the Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) website.

The main areas of conversation below broadly address the points raised in the petition.

HCC adopted the Local Transport Plan 4 (LTP4) in May 2018, which seeks to ensure that the needs of those walking, cycling and using passenger transport are considered in the first instance when projects are identified, developed and delivered. These key principles are being used to support responses to planning applications and to guide the development of projects that are being led by HCC.

A recent example of this is the inclusion, subject to planning permission, of a dedicated cycling facility to link Sacombe and Stoney Hills, that will accompany the delivery of the A602 improvement scheme. A successful bid was also made to Sustrans for funding to support improvement to the Cole Green Way, to help make it a more attractive utility route.

In response to the challenges that Covid 19 poses, HCC have already rolled out measures across 15 sites to help widen footways and create spaces that support social distancing for users. These have included road closures, parking restrictions, and the implementation of 20 mph areas. The timings of numerous pedestrian crossings have been changed to make them more responsive to pedestrian calls, reducing call times from 30 seconds to 12. In response the recent Government Emergency Active Travel Fund (Tranche 1), a bid has been submitted that will seek to support these measures, along with others to enable them to evolve as the needs of town centres across the county become clearer, including addional cycle parking, improving existing cycling facilities in and between towns and the introduction of pop up cycleways for approximately 3km of routes. We are seeking views on the Tranche 2 funding, that will seek to implement wider improvements to the network, and we will be submitting a bid to the DfT, with the intention of capturing some of the transport benefits Covid 19 has created, and locking in changes longer term. In addition, this will be supplemented by the Council’s existing cycle training actives, that are nationally recognised, and have provided training to thousands of school aged pupils. This work is carried out alongside support that is provided to help schools with their Travel Plans, Crossing Patrols and the development of other strategies in support of LTP 4.

Such strategies include Growth and Transport plans that cover the key towns and development areas in the County, the adopted A414 Strategy and the newly refreshed Speed Management Strategy, that was consulted upon at the Special Cabinet Panel on 3 June 2020; this meeting and the minutes can be viewed at:
https://democracy.hertfordshire.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=370&MId=2065
The refreshed Speed Management Strategy seeks to ensure that 20mph areas are considered as part of any new school development, or where significant extensions are required to existing sites.

A new Active Travel Strategy is also in development, and will be consulted upon in the coming months. These strategies are being supported by the development of new tools and approaches, such as a Place and Movement assessment tool, that helps to identify points on the network where there may be a mismatch between the needs of users and the environment.

The challenge of parking on pavements is one on which we work closely with the Districts and Boroughs, who are the enforcement agencies across the County to manage and balance the competing demands. We do not condone parking on the footway or the blocking of pedestrian and cycling routes, and would support the government in making it easier to prevent it.