A letter to the Portsmouth News from our St Jude Cllr’s Judith Smyth and Graham Heaney
There are some inspiring stories about cities and towns across the world which are pedestrianizing and encouraging cycling in city centres. Birmingham, Walthamstow and Oxford are good examples in the UK, Milan’s plans for change were described in the Guardian Newspaper on 22 April.
During the last five weeks of Covid lockdown what we have seen in Portsmouth is very much reduced car traffic. People are taking walks and cycle rides whilst keeping 2M apart. Many of our pavements are too narrow and people are often walking in the road. Cars seeking a parking space are normally considerate of both pedestrians and cyclists.
We have also seen a big improvement in the quality of the air we breathe.
The City council has the powers needed to close roads and /or to restrict their use and I suggest that they should now use these powers to give pedestrians, disabled people and cyclists priority in many roads in the city. Residents needing to unload or park or disabled people could continue to use these roads, but slowly and with respect for walkers and cyclists. Disabled vehicles need to have full access across the city including parking on the sea front.
Many vulnerable people will need to continue social distancing for months if not years and so there will be a need for a lot of space to walk and cycle safely, keeping the 2.5M distance between people well into the future.
Removing cars from outside pubs and other food outlets could also provide future space for customers maintaining physical distancing.
Longer term, after this has been in effect for a year or so, the City council can consult residents, local business and visitors to the city and ask us whether we want this to continue. There is no doubt that it would greatly contribute to improving air quality, improve the quality of life for many and accelerate the carbon reduction required to save the planet. So, it is a win- win.