Updated: Sep 1
Transport for London (TfL) has brought in changes today that will transform one of central London's major thoroughfares into an area that prioritises people walking and cycling.
The new traffic restrictions between Shoreditch and London Bridge are part of TfL's response to the coronavirus pandemic, which they say is helping to create more space for walking, improve cycling conditions and enable people to maintain social distancing, particularly at busy times.
The temporary restrictions on Bishopsgate and Gracechurch Street in the City of London - which came into operation today at 07:00 - are a key part of the Mayor of London and TfL's world-leading Streetspace plans.
The restrictions will be in operation on weekdays between 07:00 and 19:00, focusing on making it “safer and easier“ for people to access central London by bike, TfL has said.
Wider footways have been constructed along the corridor to give people on foot even more space and a number of banned turns, which will be in operation 24 hours a day, will also be introduced along the road.
These temporary measures will continue to provide access for servicing and taxis for most of the busy corridor, except for two short sections of road - Middlesex Street to Liverpool Street, and Leadenhall Street to Fenchurch Street - where access to vehicles is restricted between 07.00 - 19.00.
Access to buildings on these streets will be from either end of these sections, with direct access remaining at all other times.
TfL say the new measures will reduce the level of motor traffic on the road, reducing the risk of a car-based recovery from coronavirus, while still ensuring it is an accessible area.
A spokesperson for TfL, said: “TfL is committed to ensuring that Streetspace schemes are inclusive for all, which is why general traffic - including taxis - can continue to access the corridor from side streets during restricted hours.
“The changes will be vital to supporting people moving through the area, as school children start to return from 1 September and as more people return to their workplaces and visit cultural and leisure destinations in central London.“
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, said: "I'm delighted that our bold new measures to boost buses, walking and cycling in Bishopsgate have come into operation today. With increasing numbers of people returning to central London, it's more important than ever that we do all we can to avoid a damaging car-based recovery which would damage Londoners' health and the economy.
“By creating more space to walk and cycle, our world-leading Streetspace for London plans are helping support a sustainable recovery for our city."
Alexandra Batey, TfL's Director of Investment Delivery Planning, said: "As people return to school, work and leisure across London, it's absolutely vital that streets are able to cope with increased demand for walking and cycling if we are to avoid a car-led recovery from coronavirus.
“We're running near normal levels of public transport services and are working hard to deliver extra space for walking and cycling right across the capital. The opening of the first walking and cycling priority corridor along Bishopsgate in central London today is a significant step forward for our Streetspace programme and will make a real difference to people moving around this busy corridor between Shoreditch and London Bridge."
Alastair Moss, Chair of the City of London Corporation Planning and Transportation Committee, said: "The transformation of Bishopsgate to give priority to pedestrians, cyclists and those travelling by bus during the coronavirus pandemic perfectly complements the City of London Corporation's efforts to increase the safety for all workers, residents and visitors on City streets.
“The City Corporation is dedicated to a sustainable transport recovery plan that does not rely on the increased use of cars that would lead to increased congestion, air pollution and road danger.
"To accommodate for the growing number of people returning to work or visiting the City, we have been maximising the space available for safe and socially distanced travel including the temporary closure or timed closure of streets, the reallocation of carriageway and introduction of additional cycle parking bays. It goes without saying that we want every person to get to their City destination safely and comfortably, therefore these changes to Bishopsgate are a very welcome part of that vision."
Andrew Reynolds, Chair of the EC Partnership, representing businesses in the area around Bishopsgate, said: "This is welcome news as this important scheme will provide more space for pedestrians and cyclists helping them to move more easily around the city and feel safe. Instilling confidence and providing reassurance is vital to encourage workers and visitors to return to central London, which is what we need to see our great city regain its vibrancy and energy. We will continue to work closely with TfL and the City Corporation to promote these messages to our business community as the recovery continues."
Sustrans London director James Austin said: "Nearly half of London households don't have access to a car and with social distancing in place, there have to be safe, attractive alternatives to public transport. Covid is disproportionately affecting poorer areas. Boroughs should be creating streets across London that are attractive and feel safe to walk, wheel or cycle on. There is still opportunity to do better on this.
"I'm inspired to see TfL and boroughs putting in temporary infrastructure in record time as part of the Covid recovery. It's crucial that Londoners share their views with TfL to help with getting this right so it best meets the needs of communities."