Glasgow city centre is set to benefit from 25km of extra space for physical distancing to help combat the spread of COVID-19.
Supported by £3.5m funding from Scottish Government and administered by Sustrans Scotland, the council's Spaces for People programme will see city centre footways widened to ease movement while the COVID-19 restrictions remain in place. These temporary measures are intended to support economic recovery by creating safe public spaces for businesses and their customers but also to promote active travel in the longer term.
The city centre Spaces for People plan will see the proposed pedestrianisation of George Square brought forward but will also draw in major city centre streets such as St Vincent St, Argyle St, Queen St, Hope St, Renfield St and Bath St along with many others.
Providing additional space for physical distancing will mean a short-term suspension of one-third of the city centre's 2,000 on-street parking spaces. But with the 12,000 spaces in city centre car parks and multi-storeys rarely more than 50% full, there should be sufficient space to park for those wishing to use the car to get into town
Plans are also being drawn up to create park and stride and park and cycle facilities at satellite car parks in different parts of the city. The plans will also see no reduction in the number of disabled parking bays in the city centre.
As well as the city centre, Spaces for People will see the introduction of temporary travel infrastructure in city neighbourhoods and on active travel routes. Footways will be widened at pinch points and also to create easier accessto community facilities and public transport hubs. Temporary strategic cycling routes are also being considered, which will highlight cycling as an attractive, viable commuting choice.
Susan Aitken, Council Leader and City Convener for Inclusive Economic Growth said "The easing of the pandemic lockdown means that repurposing our streets is not just an ambition but a matter of urgency. People need the safe space and confidence to observe physical distancing, get on with their lives and accelerate our recovery. We must respond to that need now. We have recently been awarded £3.5m from Sustrans to help support this. From reconfiguring our roads and footways to provide extra space for pedestrians, mobility and wheelchair users, to the creation of temporary cycle lanes; different combinations will be considered to fit the needs and characters of different neighbourhoods, as well as our city centre. This funding pot has recently been increased and so we'll bid for further funding in the near future. The need for space is widespread and immediate. Safer streets are about restoring confidence, vibrancy, prosperity. They're also about saving lives."
Other measures under consideration for the city centre include increasing the time the green man is displayed at junctions or reducing the traffic light cycle times to aid pedestrians. A possible trial of a dispensation for e-scooters in the city centre is also being explored while additional on street cycle parking will be installed where space is available.
Longer term, and once restrictions begin to ease, it is hoped that walking and cycling will continue to be considered a safe and convenient mode of transport that benefits health and air quality.
Councillor Anna Richardson, City Convener for Sustainability and Carbon Reduction, said: "The plans for the city centre are a key part of the Spaces for People measures. Spaces for People is about making it safe for people to get about, both in terms of public health and road safety. Lockdown has clearly had impact on people's choices with more people walking and cycling than before. Spaces for People gives us a chance to nurture those choices, encouraging people to keep with active travel and helping to maintain physical distancing as a way to guard against a resurgence of the virus."
Given the scope of the project, there will be a programme of publicity and engagement to raise awareness of these temporary travel infrastructure changes. Dedicated webpages have been set up at www.glasgow.gov.uk/spacesforpeople and as the programme is rolled out, more detail will be made available including how to engage with the process.