How do you simultaneously discourage people from riding public transportation, avoid automobile gridlock and maintain social distancing? By designating bike- and pedestrian-only streets. At least, that’s the approach London is trying as it eases its lockdown restrictions.

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Last week, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced one of the world’s biggest car-free initiatives. Main streets between London Bridge and Shoreditch, Old Street and Holborn and Euston and Waterloo will be reserved for bicycles, walkers and buses. The network of car-free streets may expand, and trucks and cars might be banned from London Bridge and Waterloo Bridge.

Related: Meet the urban planner responsible for San Francisco’s car-free Market Street

Khan said in a press release that the pandemic is “the biggest challenge to London’s public transport network in Transport for London’s history. It will take a monumental effort from all Londoners to maintain safe social distancing on public transport as lockdown restrictions are gradually eased.”

Officials hope that millions of journeys will instead be made on foot or two wheels. To further discourage motorists, London is reinstating and increasing “congestion charges” for drivers in heavily trafficked zones during weekday business hours. Certain essential workers who must drive private vehicles will be reimbursed.

The mayor’s office emphasizes that for now, public transport should be a last resort. Some populations who ordinarily get to travel for free or at reduced rates — such as children, seniors and people who have disabilities — will have to pay fares as part of a large government bailout deal for Transport for London (TfL), the city’s transportation system. TfL has kept trains and buses running to transport essential workers while losing 90% of fare revenues and much of its advertising in tube stations as well as furloughing 7,000 members of its workforce.

Doug Parr, chief scientist and policy director at Greenpeace U.K., endorsed the car-free plan. Parr said, “Not only will transforming our streets in a way that prioritizes pedestrians and cyclists, and makes it safer for people to move about as lockdown restrictions are eased, but by permanently restricting car use we can keep toxic pollution from filling our air once again.”

Via The Guardian

Image via Aron Van de Pol