Edinburgh and Glasgow city councils have confirmed they are discussing the innovations with the Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency and cycle and footpath developers Sustrans.
The move follows the lead of cities such as Berlin and countries like New Zealand which are redrawing road markings to give more room for cycles.
It also comes after a significant increase in cycling being recorded in Scotland since road traffic fell by 75 per cent because of the lockdown.
The redrawing of streets is being planned for when lockdown restrictions are eased because 2m social distancing is likely to continue to be required for a long time.
No details of which areas might be covered have yet emerged, but city centre streets used by many cyclists and walkers are likely to be among them.
Even with fewer people on the streets, some walkers are having to step onto roads or even cross to the opposite pavement to keep their distance from each other.
Changes to traffic regulation orders may be required, including a relaxation of the process for introducing new ones.
More space required
Glasgow City Council sustainability and carbon reduction convener Anna Richardson told The Scotsman: “We are actively looking at how we could introduce temporary footways and cycle paths to help support social distancing.
“We are still in lockdown, but there are already indications that social distancing will remain a feature of our lives in any case for some time to come.
“When we are able to move around more freely, more space will be required for people walking and cycling to keep their distance and help stifle further spread of Covid-19.
“Once restrictions do begin to ease, it will be crucial that walking and cycling continue to be safe and convenient modes of travel that are good for health, air quality and traffic congestion. “
Edinburgh City Council leader Adam McVey told The Scotsman: “We are actively considering ways to help people to safely walk and cycle, both in the present circumstances, and as things hopefully change in the coming months.
“As part of this, we are in close communication with the Scottish Government and Sustrans.
“Any new measures will be announced as early as possible.
“In the meantime, we are aware there are a number of pinch points across the city, and would ask everyone to show understanding and awareness of each other.”
A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: “As the cabinet secretary [Michael Matheson] has confirmed, we are already in discussions with Sustrans Scotland in terms of how we could help support local authorities to reallocate road space and open up more streets to active travel.
“We will of course prove a more detailed update as any proposals are developed and inform Parliament and key stakeholders at the appropriate time of any significant updates.”
John Lauder, the Scotland-based deputy chief executive of Sustrans, said: “Given the Covid-19 crisis, there is a clear call among members of the public to have more space to take essential journeys, including exercise on foot and by bike while still observing safe social distancing.
“Sustrans Scotland are in discussions with Transport Scotland on how we can support local authorities to reallocate road space to allow safer walking and cycling in this period.”
Another cycling group applauded the initiative.
Jim Densham, Cycling UK’s campaigns and policy manager for Scotland, said: “We’re delighted Glasgow and Edinburgh are looking to introduce temporary cycle paths and we hope that other local authorities will follow suit.
“We have seen more people out riding their bikes during lockdown, enjoying the quieter streets and cleaner air.
“As restrictions ease, it’s vital we help people to maintain their newly-formed healthy habits, and continue to experience the many benefits from being more active.
“That needs extra space on roads for cycling and walking.”
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