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Coronavirus: Cyclists claim greater share of road space
More people are cycling because of the coronavirus restrictions, but they are not always cycling safely, according to Fietsberaad Vlaanderen. The expert advisory group wants to see roads adapted so that cyclists can keep a safe distance from one another.
Figures collected by the Fietsberaad show that cycling has increased across Flanders since coronavirus restrictions were introduced last month. These new cyclists include commuters who still have to travel to work, along with people keen to avoid the close proximity of buses and trams.
Others are getting on their bikes because they think cycling is safer now there are fewer cars on the roads. And a lot of people are cycling simply for exercise and a break.
“When the Covid-19 safety measures are lifted, it can be assumed that bicycle traffic will increase further, since people who used public transport in the past may continue to cycle,” the Fietsberaad explains in an analysis of the situation, published this week.
But the group is concerned that cyclists already find it difficult to maintain the 1.5 metres distance required for social distancing. Narrow cycle paths, or routes with mixed traffic, force riders together. There may also be problems at junctions, where increasing numbers of cyclists bunch together, waiting for the lights to change.
So there needs to be more space for cyclists on the roads. One solution would be to widen existing bike lanes by temporarily extending them into lanes usually reserved for traffic. More radically, lanes currently used for driving or parking cars could be temporarily converted into bicycle lanes.
For roads with several lanes, this could be done without modifying traffic flow. Alternatively, two-way streets could be made one-way, with one lane turned into a two-way bicycle path.
Other suggestions include using farm tracks as safe bike paths between towns and villages, and restricting traffic further in quiet residential streets, or around schools when these eventually reopen.
When the Covid-19 safety measures are lifted, it can be assumed that bicycle traffic will increase further
Meanwhile, the space set aside for bicycles to wait at traffic lights should be increased so that social distancing can be maintained. Another solution would be to make greater use of the “ride through” rule allowing cyclists to turn right or ride straight on if safe to do so.
The Fietsberaad is also concerned about the impact of bicycles when they are not in motion. “Leaving parked bicycles on pavements creates extra pressure on urban environments,” it says. “Pedestrians are also hindered in respecting the required physical distance.”
With more bicycles around, there needs to be more bicycle parking, particularly where people may be waiting to go into shops.
The Fietsberaad is holding an online seminar on 22 April to discuss its suggestions further. Registration will be through the organisation’s website.