London streets to go car-free to encourage walking and cycling amid COVID-19 social distancing restrictions

LONDON: Cars will be banished from miles of streets in central London to encourage more walking and cycling and help public transport cope with social distancing restrictions, the city's mayor said on Friday (May 15).

Sadiq Khan said the plan, which covers major cross-town routes, would transform parts of central London into one of the largest car-free zones in any capital city.

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"COVID-19 poses the biggest challenge to London's public transport network in TfL's (Transport for London) history," he said.

"It will take a monumental effort from all Londoners to maintain safe social distancing on public transport as lockdown restrictions are gradually eased."

READ: COVID-19: UK trials e-scooters to ease post-lockdown transport crunch

Passenger numbers on London's Underground network have fallen by 95 per cent since Britain went into lockdown in March, while the number of bus journeys has fallen by 85 per cent.

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Earlier on Friday, the transport operator said it had secured £1.6 billion (US$2 billion) in government funding to cover a shortfall in revenue until October.

TfL has said the requirement to maintain a two-metre distance from other people will mean buses and the tube will only be able to carry 13 per cent to 15 per cent of the normal number of passengers even when full services had been restored.

Khan said many more Londoners would therefore have to walk and cycle to keep the city moving.

Streets between London Bridge and Shoreditch, Euston and Waterloo and Old Street and Holborn may be limited to buses, pedestrians and cyclists, his office said.

READ: UK's plan for exiting the COVID-19 lockdown

Waterloo Bridge and London Bridge could also be restricted to people walking, cycling and buses only, with pavements widened to enable people to safely travel between busy railway stations and their workplaces.

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