Friends of the Earth Scotland wants pavements and cycle lanes to be expanded to allow better social distancing
Campaigners are calling on local authorities to introduce temporary traffic management measures to allow people to comply with social distancing rules.
Friends of the Earth Scotland has suggested councils should take inspiration from cities such as Berlin and New York - and countries such as New Zealand - which have introduced measures to expand cycle lanes and widen pedestrian areas while traffic levels remain low.
The charity wants to see the Scottish Government and local authorities follow these international examples and close currently unused lanes to motor vehicles. Campaigners argue that, with fewer cars on the road but people struggling to maintain two metre distance on pavements and in existing cycle lanes, this space could be used by those getting exercise, volunteers delivering food and by key workers commuting.
The campaigners have said there is nothing legally stopping local authorities making these changes. Data from Cycling Scotland has shown that there has been positive growth in cycling numbers across Scotland whilst road traffic has plummeted.
Friends of the Earth Scotland air pollution campaigner Gavin Thomson said: “We are all doing our best to socially distance to protect ourselves and others. However, it is very difficult to pass someone on a pavement and remain two metres apart; one of you has to walk on the road or you have to breach the guidelines. This is a particular issue when more people are walking, running, and cycling outdoors to get exercise, and for those key workers travelling to and from vital jobs.
“The challenges presented by this shutdown include the lack of public space, particularly in our built-up areas. With traffic at very low levels for the foreseeable future, road space could be temporarily re-allocated, giving more space for pedestrians and cyclists. Our pavements are too narrow for social distancing. Around the world, we’re seeing great initiatives from councils and governments quickly unlocking space for distancing, such as expanded cycle lanes, space for pedestrians on roads, and parks closed to through-traffic.
“Councils are obviously under enormous pressures during this period and we thank them for the work they are doing. We hope Scottish Government can support councils, as soon as possible, to bring in measures which will create more public space for people to socially distance safely.”