Reshape Enfield’s streets to help fight pandemic

A family-friendly bike ride organised by Enfield Council last year
A family-friendly bike ride organised by Enfield Council last year

Viola Rondeboom from campaign group Better Streets for Enfield on ways we can adapt roads to boost health and safety

We have witnessed an unprecedented drop in motor traffic in Enfield during the Covid-19 lockdown. While the cause of this drop is tragic, the benefits of low traffic are undeniable: Clean air, safe, quiet streets, and a massive rise in people of all ages cycling both for exercise and essential journeys.

Yet with public transport capacity reduced and the first set of restrictions eased, traffic is already on the rise. To prevent gridlock once lockdown is lifted, we need to help people to carry on walking and cycling short journeys. Particularly in Enfield, we could see a catastrophic rise in car use. This would badly affect walking and cycling – active travel rates are dependent on routes that feel safe and have lower traffic volumes.

Councils around the country are recognising that car-centric roads with narrow pavements and little cycling infrastructure make social distancing almost impossible for pedestrians and cyclists. With these measures possibly continuing in some form until 2022, more space is needed for people on foot and bike to maintain a safe distance from each other without stepping into the road or getting caught in heavy traffic.

That’s why we are urgently calling for a series of measures to be implemented in Enfield, in line with the government’s statutory guidance. Firstly, to enable cycling as transport, we suggest pop-up cycle lanes on public transport routes to create corridors for key workers and pre-empt a rise in commuter car trips; along the Piccadilly Line route from Cockfosters to Bounds Green, the east-west bus routes through Enfield Town, and along the overground route from Edmonton Green into central London.

To enable social distancing on shopping streets, road space needs to be re-allocated to people where

pavements are narrow and people have to queue. This can be achieved by suspending parking near local shops or cordoning off traffic lanes and service roads. Suspending parking – but leaving disabled provision and loading – would also discourage unnecessary car use for short journeys to local shops.

To keep the benefits of low traffic, we ask that Enfield Council bring forward its plans for low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) and ‘school streets’, and set the default speed limit to 20mph. LTNs prevent motor traffic taking a shortcut through residential areas, using barriers such as bollards or planters, but still allow every street to be accessed by vehicle. School streets temporarily close the roads around schools at times pupils are picked up or dropped off.

Boroughs across London are putting these in as emergency measures because they provide a network of quiet streets where pedestrians have space for social distancing and where any age or ability can cycle.

If there is one thing this crisis has taught us, it’s that the future is not a given. We’ve learned that there are certain things we can change, very quickly, especially when public safety is at risk. We can choose how to reshape our streets and mobility.

The coronavirus crisis has been like a crash diet for our streets. The question is, how many pounds do we want to gain again? We don’t want to go back to those congested, fume-filled and hostile roads of the past. Let this crisis be a turning point for healthy streets in Enfield.

For more information about Better Streets for Enfield: