Reallocating Road Space in Response to COVID-19

Photo credit: Leicester City Council

Last update: August 2022

The behavioural changes forced on people by the COVID-19 lockdown have drastically changed the demand for road space.

The national lockdown, furlough and the increase in working from home has massively reduced the amount of the traffic on the road. With quieter roads, many people have chosen to cycle or walk when taking their daily exercise and there are many more cyclists (often very new cyclists) on the roads and cyclepaths.

But as lockdown restrictions are eased, cycling and walking still need to be popular forms of transport; achieving adequate social distancing on public transport will be impossible with normal patronage. It is essential that road space is made available to allow people to maintain social distance while walking by stepping into a protected part of the road and for that space also to be used for cycling. Very many places around the UK are creating this space – it’s called Road Space Reallocation and can be done quickly, cheaply, on a temporary basis if necessary and the government provides the money for it. What are Derby and Derbyshire councils doing about it?

Derby Cycling Group has proposed an action plan it hopes the City Council will adopt to:

  • Reallocate road space around our NHS sites at Royal Derby and London Road Community hospitals.
  • Make positive and proactive interventions as required by the UK government’s Statutory Guidance (see below) to create more space, now, for cycling and walking
  • Make active travel more attractive
  • Increase secure cycle parking

What have we done?

We have published our initial Action Plan and submitted it to Derby City Active Travel Forum and the City Council.

At our members meeting on 12th May 2020 we collated a DCG List of Schemes we want the council to consider as part of it’s own action plan and also submitted that through the Active Travel Forum

If you have ideas which are not on this list, please send them to You can also visit the “Widen My Path” map from CycleStreets to see other people’s suggestions, to upvote those that you agree are needed, and to add your own ideas.

At the City Council Active Travel Forum on 13th May 2020, all the stakeholders present put forward their own suggestions, which have now been incorporated into a report:

DCiC Active Travel Forum Report on CV19 Interventions .

Derby activities

Derby asked for feedback (Jan 2022) on their plans for spending the money they received from the tranche 2 of the Active Travel Fund. Broadly the schemes they propose to spend some of the money on are for changes to the existing on road cycle lanes on Duffield Road, Sinfin Lane, Ashbourne Road, Friar Gate and Burton Road. Some further discussion and comment can be found here.

Derbyshire activities

We have written to Derbyshire County Council suggesting some schemes around the edges of the Derby City area and, in particular, asking for the County and City to work together on joint solutions for the benefit of both city and county residents.

We’ve received a response from Mike Ashworth (Executive Director for Economy, Transport and Environment at Derbyshire County Council) but no response from the Councillors and the Council leader which the letter was sent to. This response does not detail any actual projects but does say that plans are being worked on. The Government has allocated about £2.2 million to Derbyshire for help in funding the emergency changes.

Derbyshire have now responded in more detail about the tranche 1 funding saying that they are focusing their attention on “30 market towns” and not planning any schemes on the outskirts of Derby. We’ve written saying that we believe this decision is a mistake, identified the suggestions from WidenMyPath that fall within Derbyshire’s responsibility and asked that they consider the schemes from around Derby.

Further details from Derbyshire show (see here for full details) that only a few towns have had physical changes (and none near Derby) with most of the tranche 1 schemes consisting solely of signage in 40+ towns. The Derbyshire site offers the opportunity for feedback to the Highways team on the changes already made.

Tranche 2 funds have now been allocated and Derbyshire have received in the region of £1.6m. The whole of this amount has been allocated to creating a cycle highway in Chesterfield so, again, no funds will be spent in the areas of Derbyshire close to Derby. The details of Derbyshire’s bid can be seen here. Thanks to Peaks and Puddles for investigating this in detail.

Tranche 3 funds have now been allocated and Derbyshire were unsuccessful in their bid. Derby City Council chose not to bid for funds from this tranche.

Why have we done this?

On the 9th May 2020, the UK government published Statutory Guidance for local authorities regarding things they must do with roads to assist the country recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. It was unequivocal; the Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps said “The government … expects local authorities to make significant changes to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians”. The note continues “Measures should be taken as swiftly as possible and in any event within weeks…”

GOV.UK Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities – Expect LAs to significantly change road layouts

GOV.UK Local Transport Restart

Towns and cities across the UK have already implemented schemes, many more are actively developing them now. For reference look at:

Sustrans – Space to Move

Cycling UK – Active Travel Interventions

COVID-19 Liveable Streets – A World View

But listen to what Derby City Council leaders intend not to do and what Derby Cycling Group thinks about it (BBC Radio Derby Afternoon Show – 18th May 2020).

Derby Cycling Group intends to hold Derby City and Derbyshire County Councils to account for quickly delivering the required changes, including road space reallocation, to make cycling and walking a much more attractive alternative to public transport (which the government says should be avoided wherever possible at this time).

It pains us to say that Public Transport is a problem now; keeping social distance is extremely difficult and the threat of COVID-19 infection will be high if lots of people use the bus. We want Derby City and Derbyshire County Councils to enable many people who rely on public transport, to be able to travel safely without public transport, so they can be kept safe from Coronavirus. Active Travel is a very good alternative for a huge number of people, reducing bus passenger numbers so those who remain can also be safe. It appears that Derby City considers potential delays to motorists (not even real delays) are more important than the potential of life or death due to COVID-19 infection amongst those, often on low incomes, who do not drive. But everyone has to get out of their cars sometime. What happens then? The walk from Royal Derby Hospital car park to the hospital is a social distancing nightmare.

What do the Government suggest?

Some examples of interventions suggested by the government for Councils in the Statutory Guidance are:

  • pop up facilities concentrating on physical separation from motor traffic (cones, plastic wands, etc.)
  • removal of parking bays to provide cycling and walking space
  • reducing speed limits to 20 mph in certain areas
  • restricting access to motor vehicles to certain areas to offer much more attractive cycling and walking zones (maybe only at certain times).
  • closing roads to motor traffic to prevent rat running through residential areas.
  • bringing forward schemes that have been planned for future years but which could be implemented now.
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