Covid-secure streets: what fleets need to know

16 June

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The fleet sector is facing new challenges as councils devise plans to close some roads and limit traffic use on others to make streets more secure for pedestrians and cyclists.

The moves, implemented following guidance from the Department for Transport (DfT) under its Emergency Active Fund, give local authorities the option of applying for funding to create temporary schemes that will make shopping streets more ‘Covid-19 secure’ – for instance widened pavements to ensure appropriate social distancing, closed roads to create more cycle lanes and on-street parking bays closed.

Some of these plans may not be temporary. The DfT’s guidance states that not only can these measures last for up to 18 months, but if they are deemed to be a success they could become permanent.

Restricting access to roads, or closing them altogether, obviously impacts on the operations of delivery firms, but details of how logistics companies can make deliveries to shops and businesses are still being drawn up.

When the fund was announced in May, it originally omitted any reference to the logistics sector. After intervention from the Freight Transport Association (FTA), the guidance was republished to include specific reference to local businesses and their need to receive deliveries. It states that ‘kerbside access should be enabled wherever possible for deliveries and servicing’.

Checking with local authorities

With councils up and down the country planning to implement these revised street scenes in the coming days, fleet and logistics operators now face the prospect of checking details with each local authority in which they need to make deliveries to ensure they comply with local regulations.

Some local authorities, such as Birmingham City Council, are proposing consolidating deliveries to particular streets, while others are limiting the hours in which deliveries can be made – Portsmouth City Council, for instance, has announced the closure of five roads within the city and will allow deliveries to affected businesses to take place before 8am and after 8pm.

The latter will have the effect of essentially turning shop deliveries into an overnight business, with shops stocking up in the evening, during the night or in the early hours.

To facilitate this, the FTA is calling for a continued extension of delivery hours to counter the issue. In March the Government extended delivery hours to shops to help them cope with the panic-buying at the start of lockdown. These measures remain in place and their need to continue is exacerbated by the re-opening of non-essential shops.

Emergency traffic schemes: what they are

Many local authorities have implemented plans under the Department for Transport’s Emergency Active Fund.

Birmingham City Council has been allocated £1 million from the first tranche of the fund, with match-funding bringing the total to £1.6 million. There are 14 schemes outlined for Birmingham over the coming weeks.

They include pop-up cycle lanes, a park and pedal programme, road closures to create ‘places for people’, and the re-allocation of road space and pavement widening in two of the city’s centres - Stirchley and Moseley - to create space for walking and social distancing.

London is converting a number of streets to be used only by pedestrians and cyclists as part of its Streetspace initiative. While maintaining access for disabled drivers and the emergency services, deliveries in some areas may have to be made during restricted times, such as outside of congestion charge operating hours. The London Lorry Control Scheme, which was suspended during lockdown, has now been re-installed and restricts when HGVs can use the capital’s roads.

The Greater Manchester area is spending £5 million on a range of measures including closing streets, widening pavements, decluttering street furniture and installing traffic calming measures.

Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) is working with partner councils on a package of active travel measures to be delivered across Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton.

The Department for Transport has set aside £17.2 million funding for the West Midlands – the first £3.4 million of which is being directed towards measures to be implemented immediately. 

Plans include pop-up cycle lanes, reallocation of road space for pedestrians and cyclists, road closures, extended cycle lanes and pavement widening.

Derby City Council has submitted a £204,000 grant application to introduce a series of measures in the city centre, including one-way pedestrian routes, additional signage for businesses, and street and pavement markings, along with hand sanitisation stations in key places and enhanced street cleansing programmes.

Road layouts in some parts of Newcastle are to be altered to meet the demand for more space for walking and cycling and to allow for social distancing to be observed. There will be changes to road layouts to allow more space for people to walk and cycle while some parking bays will be removed.

Elsewhere, the city council is working to understand which businesses are open, or will soon be opening, so that floor markings can be put in place to show walkways, queuing areas and two-metre distancing.

City ‘marshals’ may be used to help people understand the new system. Some seating and other street furniture is being removed but this will be reinstated once appropriate areas for walking and queuing have been identified.

To find out which local authorities have applied for funding.

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