Currently reading: Government makes it easier to close urban roads to cars
Cities will be able to more easily close roads to boost cycling and walking, ease pressure on public transport

The UK government is set to make it easier for towns and cities to close roads to cars as part of a £250 million active travel fund package to encourage walking and cycling.

The new scheme has been introduced as part of plans to help people return to work following the coronavirus pandemic. Social-distancing measures set to be introduced will dramatically reduce capacity on public transport. To ease that pressure, the government wants to encourage people to walk or cycle. It cites a recent survey that found more than 40% of urban journeys were less than two miles. 

The scheme will be the first part of a planned £2 billion investment, built into a previously announced £5bn scheme to boost cycling and bus use. The government says there has been a 70% increase in bicycle usage since the lockdown began.

The government has fast-tracked statutory guidance to update the Traffic Management Act 2004. It gives local authorities in areas with high public transport usage the ability to close roads to cars, widen the implementation of 20mph speed limits and introduce expanded facilities for cycling.

That could include mandatory cycle lanes, converting traffic lanes and parking bays into cycle lanes and installing physical barriers between cycle lanes and car lanes. Certain roads could be closed to traffic at certain times and barriers could be installed to block roads that are closed to cars.

Closing roads to cars previously required a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO), but the government has now streamlined the process, introducing the ability to introduce ‘experimental’ measures that are reviewed after installation and shortening the approval process for both temporary (up to 18 months) and permanent changes.

Transport secretary Grant Schapps said: “We know cars will continue to remain vital for many, but as we look to the future, we must build a better country with greener travel habits, cleaner air and healthier communities.”

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, had already announced a new 'Streetspace' plan to accomodate a "possible ten-fold increase in cycling and five-fold increase in walking" in the UK capital. That will involve creating new cycle lanes, widening pavements in town centres and creating "low-traffic neighbourhoods". While the schemes will initially be temporary and will be reviewed, Khan indicated that they could become permanent.

The government has also brought forward trial schemes that will allow e-scooters to be used on public roads and will open up the trials to all local authorities that want to run one.

It has also announced plans to further encourage drivers to switch to electric cars, including a consultation on expanding public charging networks.


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James Attwood

James Attwood, digital editor
Title: Acting magazine editor

James is Autocar's acting magazine editor. Having served in that role since June 2023, he is in charge of the day-to-day running of the world's oldest car magazine, and regularly interviews some of the biggest names in the industry to secure news and features, such as his world exclusive look into production of Volkswagen currywurst. Really.

Before first joining Autocar in 2017, James spent more than a decade in motorsport journalist, working on Autosport,, F1 Racing and Motorsport News, covering everything from club rallying to top-level international events. He also spent 18 months running Move Electric, Haymarket's e-mobility title, where he developed knowledge of the e-bike and e-scooter markets. 

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Peter Cavellini 11 May 2020

At last!

 At last!, someone thought of this, or am I taking urine?, no, I'm not, I'm glad , and if it works, it's going to make going to work not only easier for some, but healthier to, because hopefully pollution will stay at the reduced level it is just now, or not go back to before, let's not be cynical about it, we need this to work.

Andrew1 11 May 2020

It was about time

It was about time