Will more of us be walking and cycling to work after the Coronavirus pandemic – or will we be working from home?

That was one of the key questions raised as councillors discussed Barnet’s road to recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.

A recovery plan drawn up by the council includes a pledge to support “the emergence of new businesses and sectors including the low-carbon economy”, along with “managing space between different travel modes”.

But at a meeting of the policy and resources committee on Wednesday (June 17), Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Gabriel Rozenberg (Garden Suburb) called for a much greater focus on cycling.

He said: “Our borough is now going to have to make a wholesale change from one that prioritises the car above everything else to one that puts cyclists and pedestrians first.

“We need to remodel every one of our town centres with that in mind, and we have the opportunity to do that.”

Council leader Cllr Dan Thomas (Conservative, Finchley Church End) described the council as “pro-cycling” but claimed there are “real limitations” to cycling in the borough.

He said cycling had “barely grown” over the past few years, and the work that the council had been doing on proposals for a cycle lane south of the A1000 was “proportionate”.

“Not everyone wants to cycle to work, have a shower, and at the end of a hard day’s work cycle back uphill – particularly to High Barnet,” Cllr Thomas said.

“If we want to tackle climate change and overcrowding on public transport, even if you quadrupled the number of people cycling, it would not have the same effect as significant numbers of office workers continuing to work at home, either full time or part time.”

The council leader said better broadband infrastructure would help more people work from home. He pointed out the home-working trend could in turn boost the local economy by increasing footfall in shops, cafes and other businesses.

But Cllr Alison Moore (Labour, East Finchley) said: “We need to look at a whole range of things – not just working from home, but to look at the structure that supports working from home.

“Home schooling has laid bare the digital divide across communities and how well families are able to educate at home and engage with a whole set of online materials.”

Cllr Thomas clarified that he was in favour of more cycling within the borough, but he did not think expecting people working in central London to cycle back to Barnet was realistic.

Cllr Ross Houston (Labour, West Finchley) proposed more infrastructure to help people to cycle to and from Tube stations so they could travel on to central London.

Environment committee chairman Cllr Dean Cohen (Conservative, Golders Green) said: “There is a piece of work regarding proposals for a pop-up cycle lane, which relevant ward members will be consulted on.

“Other ward members in key town centres have also been invited for a walk around town centres to see what improvements can be made – not just in the short term, but also in the longer term.”

At the end of the debate, councillors unanimously approved the initial Covid-19 recovery plan.