By: Blonde Two

Since the coronavirus lockdown eased slightly a few weeks ago, there has been a quiet revolution occurring along Torbay seafronts. The people of Torbay have been claiming back their beautiful coastal outdoor spaces, indulging in active travel and getting outside in all kinds of innovative ways. As you know, I’ve been a regular early morning visitor to Torquay seafront, winter and summer, for the last four years. This puts me in a good position to tell you unequivocally that times are changing, and it isn’t just happening in Torbay.

Across the UK Ordnance Survey’s digital mapping app OS Maps has seen a massive 78% increase in usage since February with a record number of people using OS Greenspace to discover outdoor opportunities in their local areas (an astounding increase of 1728%). This goes even further with more people also researching and planning routes further afield for post lockdown explorations.

‘During the intense period of lockdown, figures show that OS Maps has been crucial in helping people discover their nearest greenspaces, and local walking and cycling routes.’

Nick Giles Managing Director Ordnance Survey Leisure


The countrywide picture of active travel and outside activity is encouraging, and we can all have a positive impact. From smiles when you are out and about to lobbying your local authority, any action is a step in the right direction. Here are ten of the Get Outside activities I’ve enjoyed watching over the last four days. I would love to hear about what you have noticed in your area.

  1. Whole families jogging together
  2. At least double the usual numbers of sea swimmers
  3. Mums and daughters roller blading hand in hand
  4. Toddlers climbing ‘mountains’ (steps to you or I)
  5. Cyclists everywhere
  6. Walkers galore (on the approaches to the seafront as well)
  7. Paddle boarders
  8. Kayakers
  9. Strolling couples smiling and holding hands
  10. Sand artists in peaceful contemplation of their work

This has truly been a joy to behold and each day has made me smile all the way home. One of my favourite and very noticeable changes is that this new activity is being undertaken by people of a whole variety of sizes and levels of fitness. As someone who experiences these varieties herself, I find this particularly encouraging. And yes, I too have joined the active travel revolution and now walk to and from my swims. This takes me 30 minutes each way (I live almost at the top of Torbay and have dodgy knees) but is making me feel good about myself and about my impact on the planet.

Like many people I’m hoping desperately that this more relaxed and kinder way of life will last in once we settle into our new normality. This will take some encouragement but there is a lot that we can be doing to encourage our local authorities in that direction. Here in Torbay I haven’t seen any signs of traffic changes yet but I have been  investigating what I should perhaps be expecting. My ideal would be times of day when the seafront was closed to motorised traffic (we have systems already in place for some closure when weather and tides require it). That would take real change but it wouldn’t take much to reduce the speed limits in certain areas to 20 or even 15 miles an hour. If you are interested in encouraging active travel and outdoor activity in your area, the links below might be useful.

Active Travel

‘There is strong and substantial evidence that active travel interventions are effective at increasing walking, cycling and physical activity.’

Active Travel’s Contribution to Physical Activity – Sport England


Cycling and Walking

‘We want to make cycling and walking the natural choices for shorter journeys, or as part of a longer journey.’

Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy – Department of Transport


20 mph Speed Limits

‘Many of our most iconic cities in the UK have already adopted a 20mph limit for most of their streets.’

The 20’s Plenty for Us campaign to lower speed limits in residential streets and where pedestrians and cyclists mix with motorised traffic. Use their easy MP email facility if you want to join the campaign.


Local Authority Traffic Statistics

328.1 billion miles were driven on Great Britain’s roads in 2018, similar (a 0.3% increase) to the previous year.’

Find out how your local authority compares with others when it comes to traffic statistics (Torbay has increasing motor vehicle traffic but this isn’t the same across the board).


Working Together

There are of course a multitude of issues to be overcome before we can see sustainable, safe change. I drive for work and pleasure and don’t suggest that all car journeys can be replaced. However I would suggest that, as far as active travel is concerned, we currently have a unique opportunity to that we really shouldn’t be wasting. Let’s take this one step at a time and perhaps, with some gentle encouragement, we can all see our roads become safer, more shareable spaces.