The UK government has signalled a wide-ranging commitment to boosting provision for active travel for short urban journeys as plans are made to ease restrictions on travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes additional high level statutory guidance on network management duties of highway authorities on road space reallocation measures (and supporting measures) as well as additional signage designs.

The main driver for these particular steps is the need to maintain adequate social distancing as the UK emerges from lockdown (a challenge that will also need to met by public transport modes for those for whom walking or cycling are not viable options). However, the emphasis on modal shift to active travel strongly resonates with the stated intent of achieving a long-term step change to decarbonisation set out in the UK Government's March 2020 consultation paper Decarbonising Transport: Setting the Challenge.

That said, the Government's decarbonisation plan was intended to set public transport and active travel as "the natural first choice for our daily activities". Whilst the Government has recognised the "once in a generation" opportunity arising out of the lockdown to promote active travel, careful consideration needs to be given to supporting public transport as travel increases again. The risk otherwise is that decarbonisation gains on one side are given up on the other.