Government to fund wider footpaths, more cycle lanes to help with social distancing

Julie Anne Genter likes to cycle.
Julie Anne Genter likes to cycle. Photo credit: Julie Anne Genter/Twitter

The Government has announced it will give councils more money to widen footpaths and install temporary cycleways to help people keep their distance from each other.

Health officials say keeping at least 2m away from people outside your home 'bubble' is key to stopping the spread of COVID-19, which has killed more than 100,000 people in the past few months, including four New Zealanders.

Though there are few people out and about at present due to the lockdown, eventually restrictions on travel will be lifted.

"When people begin to return to city centres following the lockdown we want them to have enough space to maintain physical distance," Associate Minister of Transport Julie Anne Genter said on Sunday.

"Some of our footpaths in busy areas are quite narrow. Temporary footpath extensions mean people can give each other a bit more space without stepping out onto the road."

Genter is a keen cyclist herself, and made headlines in 2018 when she rode her bike to the hospital to give birth. Health Minister David Clark's recent ride on a mountain trail wasn't as warmly received, with accusations he broke his ministry's own rules about travelling outside your local neighbourhood.

Genter says cycling is a good replacement for public transport at a time when there are fewer cars on the road.

"A number of cities around the world, including New York, Berlin and Vancouver, have rolled out temporary bike lanes to provide alternatives to public transport, which people may be less inclined to use in the short-term," said Genter.

"Councils are able to use highly-visible plastic posts, planter boxes and other materials to create temporary separated bike lanes where people feel safe."

The funding will come from NZTA's Innovating Streets for People pilot fund, and councils have been asked to put forward projects they'd like funded up to 90 percent.

Any projects won't actually be built until after the alert level 4 restrictions are lifted, however.