While the covid-19 road closures and pavement widenings in Croydon have had a mixed reception so far, over in neighbouring Sutton, with its vast, polluting waste incinerator, the LibDem-run council has used the coronavirus emergency powers to do absolutely nothing to make it easier and safer for people to travel on foot or by bicycle.
Now Extinction Rebellion are calling for safe space for active travel in Sutton, and they began protests last weekend highlighting the present situation which offers few opportunities for safe active travel in the borough.
The government has released £250million of funding towards safer travel schemes. In London, much emphasis has been made by the authorities for those people who have to travel to avoid using the under-strain Tubes and buses.
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has announced a radical rethink of public space in the city centre, while Lambeth, Southwark, Hammersmith and Fulham, Hackney, Tower Hamlets and even Croydon are among councils who are making changes to keep residents and visitors to the area safe.
At the weekend, XR Sutton joined in with “Reclaim the Streets”, a series of peaceful, physically distanced protests, painting stencils of bikes in normally congested, polluted areas (using non-toxic paint or chalk), to create their own pop-up bike lanes.
To date, London Borough of Sutton has made no changes to the road network, or offered any solution for safe travel, presenting difficulties for residents and visitors travelling to work, hospital or social appointments across the borough.
“The coronavirus crisis has fundamentally changed everything, and we need to adapt so many parts of our lives and society,” said Verity Thomson, an Extinction Rebellion activist from Sutton.
“It’s always been the case that active travel has needed to be prioritised due to the on-going and very real threat of the climate emergency, as well as the effects on health from air pollution and obesity. We now have an opportunity to bring about the necessary changes, improving lives locally, and making a small start on reducing CO2 emissions.
“Our action was designed to demonstrate to Sutton Council that the climate emergency is not going away and we need to act now to secure a better today and tomorrow.”
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