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Our ‘New Normal’ must be cleaner and greener than the past

Our new ‘New Normal’ to be cleaner and greener than the past. The need to tackle Climate Change to avert catastrophe will still be with us once COVID-19 passes, with a real risk that poor air quality returns if we don’t take big decisions now to avoid clogging our streets up with cars.

As Alliance Party Infrastructure Spokesperson I welcome Minister Nichola Mallon’s announcement to appoint a Walking and Cycling Champion but urge that practical actions are be taken without delay.

Decisions taken in the next few weeks about how we travel in Northern Ireland will effect generations to come. It is therefore crucial that the Department for Infrastructure and wider Executive grasp the challenge and lead historic step change towards active, sustainable and accessible travel. Recent reports that traffic in Northern Ireland has not fallen to the same levels as rest of UK and Ireland are a matter of real concern which ought to motivate all Executive Ministers to take swift action.

I welcome news the Infrastructure Minister is prepared to consider my suggestion that government offer discount vouchers for purchase and repair of Bicycles. A simple but perhaps effective way to boost Active Travel.

Capital Investment plans must also be reviewed and reprioritised to reflect new priorities of 2020 with significant active and public transport provision required to enable both social distancing now and a more sustainable future ahead.

Our cycling before Social Distancing was a term we heard about

The public sector also ought to lead the way in moving towards new working arrangements including working from home, staggered and flexible working patterns plus video conferencing, all embraced as the norm

Further action such as Bus and Rail Fare Promotions, amending legislation to enable a more speedy introduction of cycling provision and bus lanes should be considered alongside a ban on pavement parking plus assistance and guidance for the Taxi industry to continue in the context of social distancing requirements.