Suffolk receives funding boost for emergency walking and cycling schemes
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Plans to make emergency changes to road layouts in a bid to improve space for walkers and cyclists have received an unexpected boost worth nearly £40,000.
After applying for funding from the Department for Transport for emergency temporary walking and cycling schemes in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, Suffolk County Council has discovered it has been awarded more money than expected.
Back in May, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced a £250m investment in swift emergency interventions to make walking and cycling easier and safer during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to avoid overcrowding the transport network.
Originally, £337,000 had been allocated to the County Council as the first tranche of its funding, but due to its proposals being particularly strong it has now been given an extra £39,501.
Andrew Reid, Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, Transport and Rural Affairs, said: “I am delighted that Suffolk County Council has been allocated this additional funding from the Department of Transport.
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“Many residents in Suffolk have embraced walking and cycling during the pandemic, so we have a real opportunity here to make our roads and pavements, especially in the built up areas in our county’s towns, safer not just for this unprecedented period, but for the future as well.
“Our aim is to embed active travel - walking and cycling - as part of a long-term habit and reap the associated health, air quality and congestion benefits.
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“However, it is crucial that any of the measures we put in place work for the majority of people living on or near the streets concerned.
“We’ve been engaging closely with walking and cycling groups, local communities and councillors, and will continue to do so, to make sure accessibility is maintained for businesses, those with mobility issues and the emergency services, and these conversations will help us as we implement and evaluate our changes.
“Also, it is not just the physical infrastructure on our highway that is going to create safe active travel improvements, it is the soft measures too, which includes updating our cycling maps and marketing campaigns to encourage people to walk and cycle more.”
However, the council’s plans have met opposition who say that the people of Suffolk are “ahead of the politicians on this issue”.
Robert Lindsay,Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group Spokesperson for Highways, Transport and Rural Issues, said: “This extra funding is brilliant news for Suffolk.
“I think this shows just how important it is to have a clear cycling plan for our county if we want to win funding bids, so I’d like to extend a big thank you to the cross-party cycling panel and officers who have worked hard to develop the 5-year cycling plan.
“However, some communities aren’t so far getting the road closures and speed limit reductions that they have asked for.
“Because this is emergency funding, it is important that enough staff are reassigned to support this work, rather than overburdening a few officers. So far I am not aware that has happened.
“We must never lose sight of the ultimate goal – to permanently reallocate road space to walkers and cyclists across Suffolk, so that we can get more cars off the road and have a cleaner, safer, happier county.”
In line with the guidance from the DFT, Suffolk County Council has already started to make temporary emergency changes to road layouts in Ipswich by closing off sections of roads to motorised vehicles, widening existing footpaths and cycle lanes, providing temporary footpaths and cycle lanes and changing traffic signal timings to reduce waiting times at puffin and toucan crossings.