A new cycle track has been put in place in Leicester to help key workers who are cycling to work during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Highways bosses at Leicester City Council have created the temporary cycle route by coning off one lane of Aylestone Road between its junction with Almond Road and its junction with Welford Road, outside the Tigers rugby ground.
The work involves putting cones out to mark off one lane of the carriageway to create a safer route, especially for key workers travelling to and from Leicester Royal Infirmary. A temporary cycle route will help link up existing cycling tracks around Freemans Common with the cycle route on Welford Road and creates a direct route for cyclists living along Saffron Lane in Aylestone to LRI.
Using part of Aylestone Road as a temporary cycle track is only possible due to the drop in traffic across the city since the lockdown came into effect on March. There are plans for a more permanent cycle route as part of the landscaping works linked to a new hotel and car parking scheme being carried out by Leicester Tigers at the former Granby Halls site.
The city council is also looking at potential options to extend the link, for example on Saffron Lane, where similar cycle lanes can be introduced over the coming weeks to help in the current situation.
Similar schemes have been introduced elsewhere in Europe. Authorities in Germany have temporarily enlarged city cycling and walking routes to allow riders and walkers to observe social distancing more easily while the streets are relatively free of other traffic. Cyclists and pedestrians in Brighton are now also able to use the seafront at Madeira Drive daily from 8am-8pm.
Some routes in Leicester have seen an increase in cycling since the COVID-19 lockdown, with some people choosing to avoid public transport. The city council is keen to build on its Connecting Leicester scheme to construct a network of cycleways, to enable those who have used the temporary lanes to continue cycling or walking once the lockdown ends.
In addition to the temporary lanes, timings at traffic lights have also been altered to give even greater priority to pedestrians and cyclists to cross normally busy roads. Earlier this month the city council also announced Leicester Bike Aid – a new free bike hire scheme for key workers – working in partnership with local cycle shops and organisations to provide quality bikes to people needing them to travel to and from essential jobs.
So far around 120 applications have been received mostly from health and care workers and over 60 cycles have been made ready for use. More than 60 further cycles have been fixed for free thanks to the support of local bike shops, to be provided to those people still waiting. Leicester City Council’s cargo bike fleet is also being used to support food and other essential deliveries in the city.
Leicester deputy city mayor for the environment and transportation, councillor Adam Clarke, said: “We are seeing more people cycling to get to work in key roles at the moment, including our own social care staff, staff at our hospitals, delivery workers and volunteers. We want to do all we can to enable key workers to get to where we all need them to be.
“Given the huge reduction in traffic on the roads, the opportunity is there for us to create this route connecting the southern part of the city to Leicester Royal Infirmary. It is work which can be done easily and quickly, inline within the Government’s guidelines. We’re actively looking at extending this to other routes and potential connections to other existing or planned cycle routes.
“We’ve had an amazing response to Bike Aid, the free cycle loan and repairs scheme, and anecdotally we are hearing that many of the people taking to bikes are not necessarily experienced cyclists, so providing a safe and protected route like this can only help.”
The Leicester Bike Aid scheme is funded by the city council and supported by donations from local bikes shops, businesses, Sustrans, British Cycling and individuals.
In addition to providing bikes on indefinite loan, the scheme provides essentials such as locks, lights and bike servicing. Key workers who are interested in the scheme can email firstname.lastname@example.org and then fill in a registration form. Bikes can be picked up from participating cycle shops a few days after successful registration.
The bikes are cleaned and sanitised before being handed over, and social distancing is observed at all times, including during collection, the council has said.