Furious Britons have blasted Sadiq Khan’s war on motorists as they called for traffic restrictions imposed amid the coronavirus pandemic to be scrapped to avoid ‘sabotaging’ London.
Cars have been banned from roads around popular parks including St James’s Park, Green Park and Hyde Park in a trial to create ‘car-free’ spaces which will last six months.
The London mayor has faced harsh criticism for cutting off parts of the capital and widening pavements to create more space for cyclists and pedestrians in the wake of Covid-19 lockdown.
The aim is to encourage more people to walk or cycle to work, but many motorists and bus users fear London could now grind to a halt as the return to work continues.
Roads around the capital have become jammed with particular hotspots found in South London around the Tooting, Stockwell, Balham and Clapham areas.
Motorists have slammed Mr Khan for ‘sabotaging’ London’s roads with the overhaul, with others sharing images of traffic jams and claiming their commutes have been more than doubled by the move.
One Twitter user said: ‘My bet is Sadiq Khan’s sabotage of London’s roads to make way for majority unused cycle lanes will cost the city more lives than Covid-19.’
John O’Connor tweeted a picture of a traffic jam, saying: ‘My now two-hour drive every day which usually takes about 50 minutes to an hour home from work now.
‘Because when I get to Stockwell every day it takes up to 45 minutes to get to the other side of Clapham, then Balham to Tooting Broadway another 30 minutes.’
And Kien Tan tweeted: ‘Buses carry more people more miles than any other transport mode in London, and yet bus lanes are being transformed into cycle lanes for the torrent of completely invisible cyclists. Genius!’
A further Twitter user said: ‘New post-Covid traffic scheme in Balham and Tooting will cause pollution, massive queues and possibly cycling deaths.
‘Who approved these plans? Where is the modelling? What does it show for pollution, queues and accidents?’
Opposition is also growing in Brighton, Essex and Cheshire where one-way systems, widened pavements and road closures have been imposed to ease social distancing.
Residents and traders are growing increasingly frustrated with the controversial measures, which they claim are causing long tailbacks and decimating footfall.
Critics say the measures have little impact on Covid-19 transmission and are being used by councils to drive through ‘anti-car’ policies and extend cycle lanes.
The aim is to encourage more people to walk or cycle to work, but many motorists and bus users fear the capital could grind to a halt as the return to work continues.
Mr Khan has long pushed his green credentials but has faced criticism over his perceived failure to persuade people to return to their places of work.
The congestion charge was temporarily increased on June 22 to £15 and operated 7am to 10pm seven days a week – up from £11.50 for 7am to 6pm on weekdays only.
But some have pointed out that cars stuck in traffic jams following the changes to road layouts and lane closures will worsen pollution in parts of the capital.
Businesses relying on workers in the capital have been devastated by the pandemic, with Mr Khan previously urging people to only use public transport if essential.
Elsewhere in Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, drivers say a £30,000 one-way system has created a traffic ‘nightmare’ and it now takes 40 minutes to get through the town.
The new system has reduced the town’s narrow medieval bridge to one lane, with traffic lights at each end, and was put in place to widen pavements.
There have been hundreds of complaints on social media.
Marcus Holbrow wrote on Facebook: ‘Traffic lights on the bridge will have a huge impact on travel time through the town. Absolutely crazy scheme, and should be scrapped as soon as possible.’
Christine Atkinson said: ‘I went there yesterday and it was a nightmare. Terrible idea.’
And Mark Smith added: ‘This is the most moronic idea I have ever seen or heard. How does this improve social distancing?
‘I would understand if it was a one way for pedestrians. My commute to work is already 45 minutes, cannot afford to add another half hour on it.’
Bradford-on-Avon mayor Simon McNeill-Ritchie said: ‘It’s a Covid-19 response project to enable pedestrians over the bridge to maintain social distancing.
‘It’s only there to provide extra space for pedestrians. There are some people who are protesting against it and I understand why, if you are a motorists you for the first time have to stop at a set of traffic lights in the town.
‘The only reason it’s there is to protect pedestrians from pedestrians.
‘The streets are very narrow and we can only do what the Government are advising us to do by having people step into the road.
‘Hence why the lanes have been restricted in a few very small areas. It’s an unavoidable inconvenience.’
Due to reduced car use during lockdown in Brighton, new cycle lane schemes were introduced which affected traffic as normal life started to resume.
On August 21, around 50 people descended on the Brighton and Hove City Council building to voice their opposition to the changes across the city.
Chris O’Connor, 35, said: ‘Reverse this decision and start earning the people’s trust again.
‘At the end of the day, we are the ones who vote you in and we are the ones who will vote you out.
‘We are here to say no more, stop what you’re doing, we don’t accept four new cycle lanes.’
In Colchester, Essex, hundreds of local residents have signed a petition calling for a review of changes to the roads due to the coronavirus.
A busy road in the area has been reduced to one lane, and frustrated motorists want the other lane reopened.
The petition, set up by Richard Pearce, also calls for other Covid measures to be reviewed.
It says: ‘The residents of Colchester are angry and frustrated at the state of our roads in our town.
‘During the lockdown Essex Highways decided to close one lane on the North Station roundabout on the A134 Southbound for ‘social distancing’.
‘With the lockdown now over and businesses on their knees Essex Highways has decided to make this change semi-permanent despite hundreds of complaints..
‘This is one of the busiest roundabouts in Colchester, the lane closure is causing a huge increase in congestion and pollution.’
Essex Highways boss Kevin Bentley said as a resident and borough councillor he understood the impact of the measures.
‘It is important to remember that these measures are designed to support residents with social distancing, which is as important as ever in our efforts to prevent further spread of Covid-19.’
In Harleston, Norfolk, road closures put in place to help social distancing have been branded a ‘nightmare’, and described as not fit for purpose.
Residents argue that while the initially may have helped enforce social distancing, the road closures are now having an effect on trade in the area.
Charles Murray, who lives in nearby Botesdale, said he would now be taking his custom elsewhere after a recent visit led to a wrong turn down a one-way street.
The 71-year-old said: ‘It is probably better for people who are from Harleston and know what’s going on, but for me it was an absolute nightmare.
‘Personally I cannot see the point of closing the roads – it is making things more confusing. We won’t go back until things are back how they were.’
Simon Marjoram, a local business owner, said: ‘Everything about it is terrible.
‘To get from one end to another, you have to take a three-mile detour on the bypass. But instead of doing that, people are going through the Co-op car park.
‘There are signs telling people to take a diversion, when there is no diversion. Where we live we are having to rescue visitors whose sat navs are confused.
‘We are reliant on people from surrounding villages coming in. Instead people are saying ‘we cannot be bothered, we’ll go somewhere else’.’
Despite this, South Norfolk Council maintains the changes, introduced in June ‘with the public’s health in mind’, are designed to boost confidence among customers.
A spokesman said: ‘The restriction of traffic in The Thoroughfare remains in place to facilitate safe social distancing.
‘We acknowledge some of these changes have caused disruption, but they have been implemented with the public’s health in mind to help social distancing.
‘This increases the confidence of people to return to the high street.’
In Chester, roads were closed so that experimental bus and cycle lanes could be installed, which means narrowing traffic lanes for cars.
The scheme, payed for by a £161,000 Department for Transport grant, is being implemented to help the area emerge from the coronavirus crisis.