Social distancing made ‘easy’ as Deansgate to be part pedestrianised

Deansgate is set to be part-pedestrianised, Manchester City Council has announced. 

The move is in response to the COVID-19 crisis, and the council’s attempt to “create an enhanced shared space for pedestrians and people on bikes” in order to “enable visitors and workers to socially distance more easily as they return.”

An experimental traffic order is being introduced to measure its impacts, with arrangements being finalised for a closure of Deansgate between King Street West and Blackfriars Street. 

Changes will not be limited to Deansgate, with “Rhino” barriers planned to extend footpaths to enable people to move around whilst also observing social distancing guidelines, and footway expansion planned for Princess Street and London Road in the city centre. 

This comes after the government and their scientific advisors announced that forms social distancing are here to stay for the foreseeable future, and ahead of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to present his “menu” of exit-strategy options next week.

Manchester City Council has also said that this pedestrianisation encourages more environmentally friendly forms of transport, and hopes to make these measures permanent if successful.

Pollution in Greater Manchester has long been an issue, with think thank IPPR in 2018 describing it as “lethal and illegal”, and the area having the second-worst council area in England for inhalable particulate matter. 

Executive Member for the Environment, Planning, and Transport – Councillor Angeliki Stogia – said: “When the essential lockdown measures start to be lifted, we need to make sure there is more safe space for people to walk in the city centre and busy district centres. 

“That’s why we’re planning these changes, which will aid the economy in its recovery, boost air quality, and contribute to the city’s ambitious target of becoming zero-carbon by 2038 at the latest.”

However, Stogia said that it was important that residents and local businesses were included in decision making.

“It’s important to stress that this would only happen after an open conversation.”

Manchester joins other major cities, such as Milan, who also plan to make areas of the city for pedestrians and cyclists only while tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Prime Minister Johnson ordered the public to stay at home on March 23 to slow the spread of COVID-19, with restrictions due to be reviewed next week. 

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