In the last few weeks, I’ve been involved in photography and film for Leeds City Council’s Connecting Leeds campaign. In key areas all over the city, cycle lanes are being improved and neighbourhood access is changing. It’s all about getting around the city, on foot and by bike, more easily and more safely. And the key factor in the changes has been Covid 19.
These lockdown days have seen a big change in the way we move around. Back in March, many of us were working from home, and going out purely for exercise or supplies. Enjoying the luxury of much quieter roads there was a huge increase in the number of walkers and cyclists. And even as we’ve returned to the daily commute or school run many of us have preferred to leave the car at home and steer clear of public transport. This change is viewed by national and local government as positive. There are huge benefits to both public health and the environment, in adopting what’s commonly referred to as ‘active travel’. But the streets are getting busy again. And with our urban road systems often geared to an optimised flow of motorised traffic, this can make for a journey that is increasingly hazardous and stressful for our newly active travellers.
So, even as we speak, council’s are looking at how they can turn this around. In Leeds that is translating into a major programme of works, to upgrade the network of cycle lanes across the city. They’re also establishing Active Travel Neighbourhoods, preventing drivers from taking short cuts through residential areas so that people can enjoy walking and cycling there in safety.
Needless to say, it will take time for some of the measures to bed in and for people to get used to the new road layouts. But photographing and filming cyclists enjoying some of the newly developed cycle lanes on the A660 and the East Leeds Orbital Route, there was plenty of enthusiasm for the changes. And it was great to see people of all ages out for a ride – to work, to shop, or just for fun. If only the sun could shine every day. Sadly, no amount of investment can improve the Great British weather!!