An award of £8million to Kent County Council will be used for several walking and cycling projects, including trial ‘pop-up’ cycle facilities, widening some existing cycle lanes and cones and barriers to widen some footways particularly outside shops and transport hubs.
The scheme will also aim to encouraging walking and cycling to school and introduce trial 20mph speed limits where appropriate and locally supported.
There will be pedestrian and cycle zones, with the possible introduction of low traffic neighbourhoods and maybe modal filters, additional cycle parking facilities at locations, such as outside stations and in high streets and a change to junction designs to accommodate more cyclists
KCC is also proposing ‘whole-route’ approaches to create corridors for buses, cycles and access only on key routes into town and city centres.
The cash comes from a £70million government fund aimed at restarting local economies and making roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
The first round of government funding will be £1.6 million with the remainder subject to agreement if spent within eight weeks.
Since lockdown on March 23, Kent Highways has recorded a 300% increase in the number of people cycling and a recent survey of people across the county found 63% supported the idea of more cycle lanes.
Kent County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport Michael Payne said: “I very much welcome this funding and we can now get started on planning some short, medium, and longer-term schemes for those walking and cycling.
“I hope this will encourage more people to walk and cycle as the health benefits speak for themselves. This investment will allow our active travel options to be enhanced and improved so that these journeys remain safe and sustainable.
“We will be looking into the possibility of reallocating road space for walking and cycling, encouraging people to take part in active travel, for instance going to school, and reducing speed limits where appropriate.
“I very much hope that the number of people cycling and walking increases as there are a wealth of benefits to our communities if people are more active – lower traffic levels, reduced congestion, less road noise and improved air quality.
“But to make these changes long lasting we need to work together, and this can only be achieved with local support.”
Working with colleagues in local districts and boroughs, KCC is arranging to implement temporary signs that reinforce the social distancing message.
As part of the Department for Transport Access Fund programme, KCC has worked alongside Cycle Community CIC based in Ashford supplying 50 refurbished bikes to key NHS staff.
The bikes have been supplied with safety equipment including helmets, locks, lights and hi-vis vests.
County Councillor Barry Lewis, who represents Margate, said he welcomed the scheme, particularly the plans for 20mph areas.
He said@: “I welcome the fact that KCC is now going to encourage local 20mph speed limits which is something I have been calling for for several years. Athelstan Road will hopefully be one of the first to be included in this. I have already, through my member’s grant, given a number of bicycles to local schools so children can be encouraged to cycle to school rather than being taken by car.”