UK businesses see benefits of walking and cycling schemes in communities

Businesses in towns and cities across the UK have highlighted the benefits of walking and cycling schemes through a series of ‘Streets for Everyone’ videos.

The short films hear local residents and traders discuss changes to their streets and the effects these have had on their businesses and the community more generally, including increased footfall and a more pleasant and safer environment.

Speaking of the schemes implemented in Southampton’s Bedford Place, local business owner Eliot said: “The pedestrianisation has honestly been brilliant, and better than I thought it would be. I had initial concerns, but it’s been fantastic for the community. There’s more footfall and it’s really brought Bedford Place together as a community. I think that Bedford Place really could become a premier location in Southampton, if the pedestrianisation was here for the long term.”

After Dundee’s Union Street was pedestrianised in July, 84% of local traders said that the changes had a positive impact, with 62% saying it was good for their business. Lorraine Law from Lorraine Law Jewellers said: “We’ve noticed more people coming in for a browse. They see the shop is safe, the street is more inviting. We’ve seen new people. When it was open to traffic, you couldn’t see the shops. So, now it actually feels more open.”

Whilst the schemes highlighted in the video series are currently temporary, local authorities are now required to consult with the communities to gather feedback on how measures can be improved, in the view to make them permanent. Public engagement is a requirement set out by the transport secretary and is a condition any local authority needs to meet before future funding allocations are made.

Sustrans is urging local authorities to engage with residents, businesses and other stakeholders to communicate what is happening, why streets changes are needed and paint a picture of the potential benefits. Proactively reaching out to local residents, including parents, disabled people and ethnic minority groups, and businesses, is ‘critical’ before and during any schemes are delivered, said the charity.

Tim Burns, senior policy and partnerships advisor at Sustrans, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic created an urgency to change the way we move around our towns and cities, and these videos showcase the positive impact opening up streets for people to walk and cycle can have on an area as a whole. Temporary schemes enable local residents to see street changes in action, and for local authorities to gather feedback before they are made permanent.

“It is therefore important, following the recent announcement of the Tranche 2 funding by the UK Government, for local authorities to meaningfully engage with everyone in the community in order to effectively build on the progress that has already been made in so many places. These schemes have the potential to create healthy and equitable public spaces for everyone.”

The “Streets for Everyone” videos have been produced by Sustrans as part of Bike Life. The series will soon feature schemes from Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Birmingham. For more information on Streets for Everyone and to watch the videos, click here.

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