THE lockdown has given civic chiefs the perfect chance to propose major changes to traffic in Winchester city centre, says a senior councillor.

The last two months has seen a steep drop in pollution from cars, as reported in the Chronicle last month.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps recently announced a £2 billion package to boost walking and cycling, including support for pop-up bike lanes, walking and bus-only streets.

In Winchester Cllr Martin Tod, inset, a cabinet member with responsibility for traffic, at the city council and a county councillor, is calling for pro-pedestrian measures such as a citywide 20mph limit and wider pavements in the city centre, with the one-way system reduced to a single lane. He also states The Square should be fully pedestrianised except for disabled parking and through traffic should be stopped.

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He said: “The lower level of traffic is causing some immediate problems, such as increased speeding; revealing other problems, particularly in places where our pavements are too narrow for the number of people who want to use them; and also showing great opportunities, with a big increase in walking and cycling, particularly on our rural roads.

“I’d like to see if we could cone the whole one-way system down to a single lane with the rest reserved for walkers and cyclists - single lane in North Walls, single lane in St George’s Street, narrowed single lane in Jewry Street, narrowed single lane in the upper section of the High Street. If possible, we also need to do something for pedestrians on City Bridge and Romsey Road bridge too (although given both are heavily used by buses, this will be harder).”

Cars should be discouraged from roads which the lockdown has shown as popular with walkers and cyclists, such as Sarum Road.

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He said it was important for changes to be made to make social distancing easier, such as wider pavements and more widely-spaced outdoor seating areas.

The city and county councils have been working on their City of Winchester Movement Strategy.

Winchester Greens welcomed Cllr Tod's initiative and produced a series of ideas, including:

• Create cycle lanes on hills;

• Remove restrictions on bicycles on minor one-way roads in the city centre;

• Install traffic lights (initially temporary) at narrow train bridges to reduce traffic to one way and leave space for pedestrians;

• Change traffic light priority for users throughout the city to pedestrians, cyclists, buses, taxis, blue badge, cars (delivery vehicles are a separate consideration that need to be thought about in the longer term);

• Close roads around schools at (extended) drop off and pick-up times before they re-open fully;

• Use temporary barriers and temporary traffic lights to implement changes quickly;

• Close Middle Brook Street car park and relocate the market stalls there. The market in its usual locations prevents physical distancing;

• Close part of Friarsgate car park for increased cycle storage. They will have to be off the high street to not impede queuing and physical distancing. This could easily provided in Friarsgate car park, which would have the added advantage of being undercover and secure.

Paul Spencer, executive director of Winchester BID, said: "We do have an opportunity as a city to move forward more quickly with implementing the priorities outlined in the Winchester Movement Strategy, including reducing city centre traffic, supporting healthier lifestyles and investing in infrastructure to support sustainable growth.

"However, while we hope more people will choose walking and cycling, we also need to be aware that physical distancing is difficult on public transport and many people will continue to avoid trains and buses for some time yet and therefore will still be likely to drive for longer journeys."