Plans for maintaining social distancing in towns and on travel routes
Residents in County Durham can have their say on how social distancing is maintained as emergency measures are being implemented in towns centres and on countywide pavements and cycle routes.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, plans have been drawn up by us to allow people to visit town centres and travel on foot or by bike while maintaining social distancing. Residents in the county are also being encouraged to have their say on where improvements to the walking and cycling network should be delivered.
The first step in this combined approach is to deliver a range of measures in town centres to create more space for people and to allow social distancing. This work will begin on Saturday, 13 June, and will include signage, wider spaces for people walking, the removal of some parking bays and taxi ranks, re-allocation of bus bays and pull-ins, and the introduction of pop up cycle lanes.
Not every town will see all of the measures put in place as each has its own requirements and has been assessed individually.
Safe social distancing
These temporary measures are to ensure that people can maintain safe social distance as non-essential retail starts to re-open on Monday 15 June. The short-term measures are being put in place to safeguard the general public and they will be continually monitored and adjusted as necessary as people begin to return to town centres.
In response to the pandemic, across the county there has been a marked increase in people walking, running and cycling for exercise and a decrease in car use. We want to encourage people to continue using healthier forms of travel.
We have therefore also applied for funding as part of a £2.62m Emergency Active Travel Fund, shared between seven North East councils. This fund is aimed at emergency measures which will create safer spaces for people walking and cycling.
As the opportunity for the funding is conditional to introducing safety measures almost immediately, they have been planned to tie into existing popular routes, mainly in Durham City.
Finally, in anticipation of further funding being made available to make more permanent safety improvements, we have launched a Street Space for County Durham consultation for residents to give their views on where more space is needed to encourage more people to walk and cycle.
Residents are being invited to provide their opinion on where they would like to see more permanent measures via an online form which uses mapping features. This will enable residents to comment on issues in their local areas and the results will be used to help inform future funding bids.
The deadline for comments on the Street Space consultation is 5pm on Friday 31 July 2020 and more information can be found online.
Reopen for business
Cllr Carl Marshall, Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: "We are looking into ways in which safe physical distancing can be maintained as lockdown begins to ease, and even beyond the coronavirus pandemic.
"As town centres begin to reopen for business with the return of retail outlets on 15 June, it is important that we have established both temporary and longer-term measures to ensure people will be able to carry on with their lives safely beyond the outbreak.
"However, I would also like to remind residents of the importance of continuing to follow social distancing and government guidelines at all times during this ongoing pandemic, despite the easing of some restrictions, to protect others, defeat the virus and ensure we can safely return to an everyday normality."