If we’ve learned anything in the last couple of months, it’s that something can start apparently very small and isolated and far away – but spread with lightning speed around the globe. As with viruses, so with ideas. And the idea of taking away road space left empty by lockdowns and giving it over to pedestrians and cyclists began just over a month ago in Bogotá, which created 13 miles of bike lanes overnight on 17th March . It wasn’t long before Mexico City was considering following suit  and from there the idea spread to North America with Vancouver closing roads in response to crowded parks  – as opposed to the initial UK reaction of just closing the parks – and Winnipeg and Calgary also closing streets. 

Minneapolis created 18 miles of space simply by closing the roads through its parks  while Denver has 13 miles of road temporary road closures  and other cities from Boston to Oakland also followed suit. 

Not that it was all down to the authorities – in Washington DC some citizens haven’t waited for official actions and appear to have implemented their own Pandemic pavements  and some UK shops have done similar  raising the question should councils just be distributing cones to citizens to let them make changes where they see fit? 

In Europe the idea has also taken off – and with growing ambition. Brussels has brought forward a planned bike lane and you can see how quickly it can be done once the authorities put their minds to it.

The success of Berlin’s first temporary bike lane prompted applications from residents in 133 other German cities and also shows what can be done quickly when necessary. 

Budapest is putting in temporary bike lanes on multi-lane roads until at least September. Barcelona is removing car parking for wider pavements and bike lanes  and improving its bus lanes.  Milan have a plan to transform 35km of streets over the summer for a rapid, experimental city-wide network. Paris has gone further still with a plan to create 650km of cycleways after the lockdown

Down under we’ve seen automated pedestrian crossings so people don’t have to touch potentially contaminated buttons but the real ambition has come from New Zealand (in this and so many other aspects of its pandemic response) which is providing providing millions of dollars in extra funding for temporary pavement widening and bike lanes across the whole country 

So what about in Britain? Here the response has been slower but things are starting to change. Sustrans has issued some recommendations for the whole of the UK  although councils’ powers are a little different in Scotland. The UK government has loosened rules on traffic orders  – although apparently not by very much. Inspired by this article in the Guardian, Brighton council were then the first to close road space to cars 

Here’s a lovely little film about the effect for one doctor

In London Hackney is cutting rat running with filtered streets, Hammersmith and Fulham are widening pavements  and Lambeth has a plan:

Liverpool has opened the Birkenhead tunnel to cyclists 

The timing of traffic signals has been changed in Manchester to reduce waiting times for pedestrians 

And it’s not just been in the cities: the Isle of Man now has a blanket top speed limit of 40mph, making journeys safer for everyone, including drivers, and keeping the pressure off the health service there.

In Scotland, the initial moves weren’t good – although Glasgow and other places have suspended parking in parks, in Edinburgh, Holyrood Park actually opening to drivers on Sundays leaving bikes and pedestrians squeezed together

However Edinburgh and Glasgow councils have reportedly been in discussions with the transport minister  and since we started our #SpaceForDistancing campaign there are further signs of movement in Dundee with local cyclists and the council together looking at where space could be made for active travel.

We’re also seeing further hopeful signs in Glasgow and Edinburgh and Midlothian:

Thank you to everyone who’s been tweeting and posting over the weekend – it’s been a real buzz to see so many ideas and suggestions. We’re hoping for that there will be positive news soon – the minister will be making a statement on transport in Holyrood tomorrow. Please do keep on the pressure though – whether on Twitter, or writing to your council leaders directly as in this thoughtful blog post asking for space for everyone. The pandemic has made stark so many of the inequalities in our societies – this is one small way that we can start to redress the balance 

Scotland is a country that prides itself on its sense of fairness, and which likes to look outwards, especially to its European neighbours. We hope this summary shows just how many great examples there are out there of Space For Distancing – it’s time we joined the rest of the world in putting this in place.

Space For Distancing: As the world acts, will Scotland follow?