City of London’s Socially Distanced Streets May Be Here To Stay
A road sign reads “New road layout for social distancing” in the Square Mile financial district of the City of London. (Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg)

City of London’s Socially Distanced Streets May Be Here To Stay

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The City of London’s traffic-lite streets look set to outlast the pandemic.

Rules introduced over the summer to maintain social distancing in the financial district have seen wider footpaths, driving lanes narrowed and in some cases timed road closures. But as officials eye an enduring shift away from motor vehicles, many of the changes could stay even if the pandemic ceases to be a major issue in the near future.

“We’ve got the luxury at the moment that we can try things out and use the pandemic as a virtue,” said Alastair Moss, chair of the City of London Corporation’s Planning and Transportation Committee. “A lot of these roads were congested, air quality has been an issue, road safety has been an issue. We’re determined those things should be tackled, so I’d anticipate that a lot of our measures will stay.”

The restrictions targeted roads with high footfall and narrow sidewalks to encourage the return of workers and make extra space for both pedestrians and cyclists. Changes have been made to some of the City’s most iconic thoroughfares -- including Cheapside, Threadneedle Street and Cannon Street. Despite the measures, the district remains far quieter than before a national lockdown was imposed in March.

Moss said the restrictions -- which would need to go through consultation procedures before becoming permanent -- would increase the City’s long-term competitiveness. In Canary Wharf, the rival financial hub to the east of the district, there were already far fewer roads with car access prior to the virus.

The financial sector and related services account for about 8% of the U.K. economy, according to lobby group TheCityUK. The so-called Square Mile -- home to many financial firms including Bank of America Corp. -- is a centuries-old district full of narrow streets that make two-meter social distancing a challenge.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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