Fear of the motoring lobby has prevented politicians from acting on the wealth of evidence that measures to reduce traffic can drastically improve life for people in towns and cities.
New polling for climate charity Possible has found the majority (53 percent) of the British public support closing town and city centres to non-essential vehicles once a week and opening up roads to pedestrians and cyclists. Less than a quarter (20 percent) opposed.
The poll also revealed that over a third (39 percent) think money should be diverted away from road building and toward cycling and walking infrastructure, with only a quarter opposed (25 percent).
Support for prioritising walking and cycling was even higher in London. Nearly a third (32 percent) strongly support opening up cities to pedestrians and cyclists by closing city centres to non-essential traffic with 23 percent tending to support and only 8 percent strongly opposed.
This follows the announcement by Grant Shapps, secretary of state for transport, of new statutory guidance instructing councils to reallocate road space to cyclists and pedestrians to aid social distancing and help prevent gridlock in urban areas when lockdown restrictions are eased.
Shapps also unveiled a new £250m fund for local authorities to implement emergency coronavirus measures such as pop-up bike lanes, pavement widening and temporary road closures.
The new emergency fund is just the first stage of an unprecedented £2bn funding package for enhancing cycling and walking infrastructure in Britain over the next few years.
Leo Murray, Director of Innovation at Possible, said: “These incredibly positive results should give courage to city and town councillors across Britain who have been told that they must act immediately to head off the threat of a traffic tsunami when lockdown is lifted.
"In the past, fear of the motoring lobby has prevented politicians from acting on the wealth of evidence that measures to reduce traffic can drastically improve life for people in towns and cities, as well as being essential to tackling the climate crisis.
"This new polling is a timely reminder that local politicians should not be scared of being shouted at by Jeremy Clarkson and his friends over moves to cut traffic, because the majority of the British public want urgent action to make walking and cycling safer where they live and work.”
Brendan Montague is editor of The Ecologist. This article is based on a press release from Possible.