Tak­ing a leaf out of Hack­ney traf­fic book

Bath Chronicle - - OPINION -

I was dis­mayed to read the prechrist­mas story propos­ing a ‘rad­i­cal and el­e­gant’ park and ride scheme on the Bath­eas­ton by-pass. Bath does not need any more ‘rad­i­cal’ trans­port pro­pos­als that are un­likely ever be built; it needs the tried and tested so­lu­tions than have been widely used through­out the UK for decades. In fact the very so­lu­tions promised in the Con­ser­va­tive trans­port man­i­festo in 2015: Sup­port for sus­tain­able trans­port – to make lo­cal bus ser­vices, walk­ing and cy­cling gen­uinely at­trac­tive, re­al­is­tic trans­port so­lu­tions. Cut con­ges­tion and pol­lu­tion – by im­prov­ing traf­fic flows, tack­ling bot­tle­necks and im­prov­ing air qual­ity. These two mea­sures alone, sup­ported by a thought­ful park­ing strat­egy de­signed to dis­cour­age car use and free up space for sus­tain­able trans­port would have negated the need for a clean air zone or any ad­di­tional park and ride. The cause of many ‘bot­tle­necks’ is parked cars, these must be re­moved from the main thor­ough­fares to en­able con­tin­u­ous bus lanes so that it be­comes quicker and eas­ier to go by bus than to drive. Once buses have pri­or­ity and com­muter park­ing is re­moved from res­i­den­tial streets the lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment will be­come safer and more pleas­ant to walk or cy­cle short dis­tances, this in turn ben­e­fits lo­cal shops and busi­nesses. Such mea­sures were pro­moted and widely ap­plauded at the ex­cel­lent Trans­port Al­liance con­fer­ence a few weeks ago and there are plenty of great ex­am­ples to draw upon. Cen­sus fig­ures for the Lon­don Bor­ough of Hack­ney show that be­tween 2001 and 2011 car own­er­ship per house­hold fell by 3,300 de­spite a 20 per cent in­crease in pop­u­la­tion. There had been an 18 per cent growth in the num­ber of prop­er­ties, but a nine per cent de­crease in the num­ber of house­holds with a car. By 2011 Hack­ney had the high­est level of cy­cling in Lon­don with 15.4 per cent trav­el­ing to work by bike and 85 per cent of peo­ple chose to com­mute by means other than the car – all this at a time when Hack­ney had no tube sta­tion and re­lied en­tirely on buses for mass trans­port. The ap­proach of the coun­cil to its traf­fic prob­lems was not to turn Hack­ney Marsh into a park and ride, nor to build a by­pass, cable car, tram or any other ‘rad­i­cal’ in­fra­struc­ture mea­sure. It was sim­ply to re­claim the streets for peo­ple so that chil­dren could walk and cy­cle safely to school and so that driv­ers gave up their cars as the al­ter­na­tives be­came cheaper and more con­ve­nient. By 2011 only 35 per cent of Hack­ney house­holds owned a car; when nec­es­sary they called a cab or bor­rowed a car club ve­hi­cle that was con­ve­niently parked nearby. Just think how lib­er­at­ing it could be, to walk or cy­cle with­out traf­fic noise and fumes, and how much could be saved on the cost of buy­ing a car, in­sur­ance and fuel if Bath took the same ap­proach. We need to un­der­stand that Bath’s real prob­lem is that suc­ces­sive ad­min­is­tra­tions have made it cheaper and eas­ier to drive a car than use an al­ter­na­tive. Mean­while if you cant af­ford a car – and a third of house­holds in Banes don’t have one – the buses are now worse than 2015 and much more ex­pen­sive. There has been lit­tle in­vest­ment in walk­ing and cy­cling de­spite the ris­ing pop­u­lar­ity of e-bikes. Worse still so much time and money has been wasted on the east park and ride when the coun­cil was told in 2009 by High­ways Eng­land that ac­cess from the Bath­eas­ton by­pass would not be pos­si­ble. So I will be­gin the New Year with a plea to Mark Shelford and any other coun­cil­lor who thinks we need rad­i­cal so­lu­tions – please stop wast­ing time and money on things that fa­cil­i­tate car use and get on with mak­ing ‘lo­cal bus ser­vices, walk­ing and cy­cling gen­uinely at­trac­tive’ as you promised four years ago. If you cant do this then don’t ex­pect us to be­lieve that the De­part­ment of Trans­port is go­ing to give you half of their £45 mil­lion by­pass to take just 100 cars off the Lon­don Road. Chris­tine Boyd (Hack­ney Coun­cil­lor be­tween 2002 -2010)

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