A record number of cycle trips were recorded along Jersey’s south-coast promenade last month as Islanders turned to exercise on two wheels during the lockdown.
Infrastructure Minister Kevin Lewis said in the States yesterday that consideration was being given to accommodating more cyclists and pedestrians in future.
‘This is something we are actively looking at, whether to increase the width possibly on the cycle lanes and pedestrian area,’ he told Members. ‘It may involve a loss of some car spaces but that is something we are looking at.’
Monitoring equipment located at First Tower recorded more than 50,000 trips by cyclists during April – a figure described as an ‘all-time high’ for the month by Deputy Lewis.
He added that the government, which before Covid-19 had set reducing its carbon footprint as a major priority, was ‘actively looking at whether to increase the width’ of the path.
Yesterday, the head of Facebook group Cycle4Jersey called for the government to take advantage of the ‘once-in-a-century opportunity’ to improve cycling facilities, as other jurisdictions were doing.
In February, the States unanimously approved the Carbon Neutral Strategy, which aims to make Jersey carbon neutral by 2030. Better bus, cycling and walking routes are all expected to be part of the measures required to achieve the target. A few weeks later the Assembly adopted Deputy Lewis’ Sustainable Transport Policy, which prioritises getting more people out of cars and onto two wheels.
Cycle shops, which have been permitted to remain open, reported a huge increase in sales during the first weeks of the Covid-19 lockdown, with one even saying it was working 12-hour days to keep up with demand.
Meanwhile, the minister told the States yesterday that discussions were taking place about developing more cycling and walking routes during the lockdown to allow people to exercise safely.
Deputy Steve Luce asked Deputy Lewis whether he had met St Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft to discuss the closure of roads and lanes in town to enable safe usage for pedestrians and cyclists.
He pointed out that UK Transport Minister Grant Shapps recently announced a £2 billion package for developing walking and cycling routes.
‘My officers and parish officials have discussed these issues and how they should be managed,’ said Deputy Lewis.
‘The relative risk of passing encounters in an outdoor environment, such as on street and in town, are low when compared to other routes of Covid-19 transmission.
‘Thus, to avoid diverting resources from other Covid-19 work it is essential that any immediate priority interventions are led by a clinical public health requirement.’
Deputy Rob Ward asked the minister if he would consider tackling the issue with more urgency.
‘This is an opportunity to actually provide the space for people to take that action. Is this not yet another missed opportunity to promote active transport?’ he said.
‘And should we not be grasping this right now and as a matter of urgency?’
In response, the minister said that his department ‘don’t have a huge amount of funds to throw at this’.
‘We are doing what we can with what we have and are encouraging more people to cycle,’ he said.
‘There may be things coming in the future.’