Pavement extensions and pop-up cycle lanes appear across the West End to maintain social distance

Pavement extensions and pop-up cycle lanes appear across the West End to maintain social distance

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By LDRS Reporter Julia Gregory

PAVEMENTS at some  the most iconic shopping streets in the world are being widened to help pedestrians maintain social distance.

It’s all change at Oxford Street, Regent Street and Piccadilly where the pavements are getting wider, traffic lanes are transformed into pedestrian walkways, and signs about social distancing are put up.

Pop up cycle lanes are also cropping up in many areas.

The moves by Westminster City Council are part of the plan to help encourage shoppers back into the West End.

Jace Tyrrell, the chief executive of the New West End Company which represents 600 retail and hospitality businesses, said it has drawn up plans using lessons from cities everywhere from China to Europe and from businesses as diverse as Prada to Primark”.

He praised “the level of collaboration which has been absolutely stunning”.

The West End normally sees anything from half a million to a million shoppers a day with a £10bn annual turnover as people are attracted by shops and the bright lights of theatreland.

But  they are bracing themselves for a footfall of just 10 to 15 per cent for the next few months.

Initially he expects “it will be very local, very London”.

The New West End Company has been holding webinars for members with many of them coming together digitally to discuss plans for reopening.

The webinars have looked at public perception and behaviour, the view from government and mental health and well-being.

“It shows the thirst for collaboration – we will keep them going as they’ve been so successful,” said Mr Tyrrell.

Amongst the guidance it recommends:

*Opening at 11am and closing between 5pm and 7pm so shops can phase travel for employees and customers. 

*Specific hours for returns and refunds during the first few weeks of reopening

*Avoiding sales in shops to avoid build ups of queues offering any discounts online only

*Queuing from the left only.

The company is also increasing street cleaning putting hand cleansing stations in the shopping streets.

It will also supply face masks to shoppers and staff, with PPE disposal bins for protective wear throughout the district.

Mr Tyrrell said it was really important to have a standard of health and safety measures throughout the shopping district.

He said retail had already seen changes with more internet shopping pre-lockdown and customers wanted to shop in a more sustainable way.

Before lockdown 70 per cent of visitors and workers used public transport to get to the West End and Mr Tyrrell said it was key to get the bike and walking routes in place.

The plans were drawn up with input from businesses, Westminster City Council and Transport for London, looking at everything from queuing for the Tube to deep cleaning streets – including some very narrow streets.

He said the collaboration reminded him of some of the planning eight years ago when London welcomed the world to enjoy the spectacle of the Olympic Games.

“It does feel With the Olympics in  London 2012 that kind of games time approach with everyone pulling together with challenging logistics, that’s been really encouraging that we’ve got that level of help and support in all this.

“During the Games we had very much a command and control structure.”

“We’ve certainly had experience of where we’ve really had to change transport, access and people movement.”

But longer term he said  safety has to come first, but quarantine could be “catastrophic” in attracting overseas visitors who plan their trips many months in advance.

As preparations for the gradual easing of lockdown get underway Westminster City Council leader, Rachael Robathan, said the bold plans across the borough are “essential in order to kickstart the economy, whilst always putting safety first”.

She continued: “There is no book to read in advance on how a major world capital recovers from Covid. We need to make sure people can get to a workplace, a restaurant, a café or an attraction efficiently and safely as the ravages of this virus recede.”

 
 
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