Roads in Reading are set to be re-allocated, possibly permanently, for cycling and walking as part of plans to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

With social distancing measures likely to remain in place for a considerable amount of time in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the council has designed a series of schemes to create more space for pedestrians and cyclists.

This follows government guidance released on May 9 which said local authorities should swiftly make significant changes to their roads to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians.

Councillor Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) lead member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said: “While the long term effect of the pandemic is yet unknown, we do know that in the short term people’s travel behaviours have of course changed.

“It is important we move to accommodate that and make it easier and safer for people to walk and cycle as they continue to socially distance.”

The proposals will be considered at a Policy Committee meeting on Monday, May 18.

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The proposals are also aimed at helping the council to meet its 2030 carbon neutral target and reduce air pollution and congestion, key aspects of the council’s local transport plans.

Traffic and nitrogen dioxide levels have both fallen by around a third in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, plans to tackle potholes are set to be delayed due to the Covid-19 crisis

If you want to have your say on transport plans in the town, you have until August 30 to comment on the council’s consultation at

How does the council want to transform our roads?

If agreed, these are the temporary, though potentially permanent, walking and cycling schemes that will be introduced over the coming weeks:

Gosbrook Road and Westfield Road: Due to narrowness of pavements, make Gosbrook Road (Westfield Road to Prospect Street) one way and Westfield Road one way (southbound) from Henley Road junction to Gosbrook Street, to increase capacity for walking and cycling. Target of June 22.

Sidmouth Street: One way (northbound) for all traffic and introduce a new contra-flow cycle lane in the current southbound lane to increase space for pedestrians and cycle lanes. This will improve links to the Royal Berkshire Hospital and existing cycle facilities on London Road. Target of June 29.

Reading Bridge: Remove inbound lane and existing hatching to create both northbound and southbound cycle lanes. Target for introduction in coming weeks.

The council also wants to accelerate a number of permanent smaller schemes already earmarked in the town’s existing cycling and walking plan.

These are:

Oxford Road: New cycle and bus lanes

Whitley Street Local Centre: Remove one traffic lane outbound and reallocate it to cyclists, alongside other improvements for pedestrians.

Southampton Street/Silver Street: Introduce cycle lanes through removal of existing road hatching

Redlands Road: Introduce southbound cycle lane (uphill) and cycle priority measures at Christchurch Green junction.

On whether the schemes could become permanent, Cllr Page said: “Once implemented we would of course monitor their success carefully. It is very likely schemes will need some adjustment over time before we can then consider making them permanent.”

Reading has the fourth highest bus usage in the UK and with socially distancing measures set to be in place for a long time, people will have to walk and cycle more often.

Green councillor Rob White, responding to the plans, said: “We are obviously pleased that a start has been made on this but we would like to see the council go further.”

RBC says these seven schemes are just the start of the council’s plans to make more road space available for walking and cycling, with further initiatives to follow in the months ahead, including proposals on London Road and Oxford Road.

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The council plans to use its approved capital programme for transport projects to initially fund the walking and cycling schemes and then claim back the money through the government’s new £250 million Active Travel Fund.

Cllr Page added: “Whilst I warmly welcome the Secretary of State’s guidance, and his personal enthusiasm, I very much regret the failure of the Department for Transport to announce any details of how ambitious local authorities such as Reading can submit funding bids.

“There’s little value in constantly repeating that money has been allocated to support cycling and walking schemes when we cannot bid for it.

“The council’s resources are already heavily stretched by the current health emergency and we have only very limited ability to fund from our own resources the schemes identified in this report.”