A bid to fund measures to encourage more walking and cycling in North Yorkshire to help people to maintain social distancing and to ease pressure on public transport is being submitted to the Government this week.
North Yorkshire County Council has been allocated £1.3m from the Government’s £225m emergency active travel fund to support walking and cycling as part of the national recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The County Council can bid for this £1.3m in two stages. Initially, £266,000 is being made available and the authority is submitting a bid this week to use that to fund temporary measures of the type it is already putting in place in towns across the county, such as coning off some on-street parking bays to widen footways to make it easier for pedestrians to observe social distancing.
The authority expects to learn shortly how it will be able to bid for the remaining £1.1m. That bid will be guided by the County Council’s Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans and consideration of requests for schemes received by the authority.
County Councillor Don Mackenzie, Executive Member for Access, said:
In North Yorkshire, we have a long-standing commitment to active, sustainable travel, so we welcome this funding to support our ambitions and to make important small but effective changes to help people to travel safely as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The funding will help us to deliver measures to encourage walking and cycling, in part to ease pressure on the much-reduced capacity of public transport as a result of social distancing.
We are already taking a considered approach to measures to facilitate social distancing in town centres, effectively widening some footpaths so that people can access shops while remaining at a safe distance from other pedestrians. We aim to achieve a balance that ensures effective access for all road users and, with our partners, will keep our approach and actions under review.
Any projects funded in the first stage of the emergency active travel fund must be started within four weeks of the money being made available and completed within eight, so these will be improvements that can be realised in a short time rather than major projects.
Actions that could be considered might include converting traffic lanes into temporary cycle lanes; widening existing cycle lanes to enable cyclists to maintain distancing; using cones and barriers to widen footways on key sections of road; widening pedestrian refuges and crossings to enable people to cross safely and at a distance; encouraging walking and cycling to school; introducing pedestrian and cycle zones; providing additional cycle parking facilities and making changes to junction designs to accommodate more cyclists.
The Department for Transport is keen for local authorities to bring forward schemes that are already planned and that can be constructed elatively quickly. The County Council will look to do so when bidding for the remaining £1.1m.
Cllr Mackenzie added:
We intend to take full advantage of this funding. The amount on offer and the requirement to spend it quickly mean that we will be looking to make small but effective improvements that offer the maximum benefit.
It will not be practical to fund major projects. To give some context, if the £1.3m were to be spent solely on new permanent segregated cycle routes it would be sufficient to pay for about three kilometres, less than two miles, of cycle path.
We know that there are many people across North Yorkshire who are enthusiastic about sustainable, active travel, as we are, and we are keen to hear suggestions for consideration, but in relation to this current funding it is important to keep those suggestions realistic.
People can contact the County Council with suggestions for social distancing or active travel measures at www.northyorks.gov.uk/socialdistancingandactivetravel, where they can also find details of current social distancing measures in place on the county’s highways.
The money allocated through the emergency active travel fund is the first phase of a £2bn five-year sustainable travel package announced by the Government.