April 2020 in review

April 2020 will be remembered as the time when the number of deaths attributed to the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the UK reached an alarming peak in the early part of the month, and then slowly began to decline. It was the continuation of riding out a national emergency together, lockdown was the reality, our key workers were our heroes, and the message still very much ‘stay home and save lives’.

People across Sutton would have continued to have been affected by coronavirus in one form or another, and our thoughts are particularly with those who lost loved ones.

For one local family, though, a tragedy occurred on the 7 April that was not linked to coronavirus illness (at least, not directly). An extremely sad incident that will have changed the lives of many for ever.  The dreadful and heartbreaking news that a young woman had lost her life whilst cycling in our borough was a tragedy that we, as advocates of cycling especially, never wish to hear or report. We were shocked and heartbroken by this terrible news, and it puts the rest of the our comments and thoughts that make up this April 2020 review into the shadows. Our heartfelt condolences are extended to Rachel’s family, her friends, and everyone who cherished her.


StayHomeProtectTheNHSSaveLives

For more on the coronavirus, what you need to know, and its impact, see: GOV.UK | World Heath Organisation | Our World in Data.


Many of the comments that were published through our @cyclinginsutton Twitter feed during April 2020 appear in this review. This review is a continuation of our March 2020 review.

Online

Our post ‘London local authorities, Covid-19, and social distancing‘, published on 20 April, was an attempt to access the level of concern and importance given by the local authorities across London in relation to easing the stress that can be experienced in the public realm during the COVID-19 crisis at a point in time around a month after the lockdown had been established. Quite simply, was there any evidence, through their official Twitter feeds, that London authorities were reaching out to residents at that time and asking questions such as: “What can we do to help you maintain social distancing when you are making essential journeys or taking exercise?”. In other words, the where, the why, and the what. The review showed that quite simply the answer to this was no, at least as far as could be ascertained through the official Twitter feeds.

The original intention was to complete the review after three or four days, and close the post. However, just as the review period was coming to an end, an authority outside of London, Brighton and Hove Council, announced that “From Monday 20 April, Madeira Drive will be temporarily closed to traffic and open to residents in the area to walk and cycle”. This release clearly showed that the issue of social distancing in the public domain was beginning to be addressed. Therefore, perhaps it would be appropriate to continue the review with of the London authorities (32 boroughs and the City of London) for at least a few more days, in a ‘What happened next?’ section. As of the 30 April, the review was continuing.

Towards the end of April, we reached out to residents, and asked them to ‘Help us list Streets for Social Distancing in Sutton‘.

Offline

Discussions with Get Sutton Cycling supporters, which included:

  • Preparation of the group’s annual accounts and grant application for LCC (documents submitted 9 April)
  • The Cycling UK campaign ‘Ask your council for cycle space during lockdown‘. Many supporters wrote to Council leader Ruth Dombey through this portal, on, or around, 26 April (see below for the text of the letter). Cllr. Manuel Abellan (Chair of the Environment and Neighbourhood Committee, Cycling Champion), responded on 28 April – see below).
  • The Living Streets campaign ‘Make space for social distancing‘.

Discussions with LCC office staff, which included:

  • The tragic news of the death of young women whilst cycling in the borough (correspondence 8 April)
  • Preparation of the group’s annual accounts and grant application for LCC (documents submitted 9 April)

There was no correspondence sent to, or received from, Sutton Council officers during April.

Correspondence was received from Cllr. Manuel Abellan (Chair of the Environment and Neighbourhood Committee, Cycling Champion) by those supporters who had written to Council Leader Ruth Dombey through the Cycling UK campaign portal ‘Ask your council for cycle space during lockdown‘. (Text below).

Meetings

No Get Sutton Cycling meetings took place during April 2020. A Zoom meeting had been proposed for 25 April, but with other demands of peoples’ time the decision was taken to postpone. There was anticipation of a forthcoming LCC webinar ‘London in lockdown – what we need to do now, and after the crisis, to boost cycling and walking’, scheduled for 1 May.

Appendix

Ask your council for cycle space during lockdown
(Cycling UK, 26 April 2020)

Dear Councillor Ruth Dombey, London Borough of Sutton

I am writing to ask you, as leader of London Borough of Sutton, to take some simple steps to give people space for social distancing, and space to walk, cycle, and safely complete their shopping or essential trips.

We’re all trying to give each other at least two metres, but we’ve still got pedestrians trying to pass each other safely on narrow pavements, whilst there’s acres of unused road space that could temporarily be made available for people travelling on foot or cycling.

This could massively benefit the key workers keeping our hospitals, care homes and essen9al services going. Those heroes won’t all feel comfortable using public transport at the moment, but with some people taking advantage of the quieter roads to drive far above the speed limit, many key workers would need safe space separated from motor traffic to feel confident cycling or walking to work.

When it comes to taking action, one thing this crisis has shown us is that where there’s political will things can be done quickly. National and local governments around the world have realised this, implementing emergency measures to temporarily widen footpaths, create new cycle lanes and restrict motor traffic on residential streets and create low-traffic neighbourhoods: all designed to open up space and enable people to socially distance.

There’s no reason why we can’t do this here.

Whilst we’re in the middle of this crisis it’s crucially important that people aren’t just told that they must stay two metres apart, but that local authorities put in place measures that enable them to do so, particularly in urban areas where people have less space. This will still be essential as and when restrictions are eased, because people will need to get out and about, to and from shops and town centres, benefiting from outdoor exercise whilst giving others space.

You can make this happen.

It’s not complex or difficult. Neither does it have to be expensive. It just needs political will, and it’s incredible what can be achieved temporarily by using some cones, some planters as temporary bollards, suspending push buttons at pedestrian crossings and through experimental traffic orders. Cycling UK has provided a short guide (www.cyclinguk.org/advice-for-councils) with suggestions for what can be done quickly, with advice to overcome any barriers.

Rather than restricting people’s access to space, we need to enable them to move more actively whilst maintaining social distancing, freeing up road space that’s not needed.

This is not just a transport issue, it’s a public health issue. You have an opportunity to show leadership and do what other local authorities across the UK are now doing, and think about the movement of people not just the movement of motor vehicles.

This crisis presents an opportunity to think about things differently. I’d implore you to seize it.

Yours sincerely,

Re: Ask your councils for cycle space during lockdown
(Cllr. Manuel Abellan, 28 April 2020)

Dear <supporter>,

I hope you and your loved ones are well during these difficult times. As lead member, Ruth has asked me to respond to you and others from the LCC who have sent her the same email. I am already in discussions with officers about this and will reply with a more detailed response as soon as possible. In the meantime, I would be grateful to hear your views on what specific actions and at what locations you would like Sutton Council to adopt any measures.

I also noticed in the briefing the sentence below and was wondering what help would the Sutton LCC be potentially willing to give if anything is progressed?

The same could apply to transport schemes. Stakeholders from local groups would be happy to assist councils where this is appropriate. They could provide valuable feedback on proposed measures, help install temporary infrastructure (under supervision), and distribute information.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Regards,

v1: 25.05.2020

Posted in Month in review, News, Tweets

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Groups.io email
Follow us on Twitter
LCC Newsletters via email
Opt in to receive emails from either the Sutton local group list or the main LCC enewsletter list here or manage all your LCC subscriptions here.
%d bloggers like this: