AGM – Monday 9th March 2020
This year’s AGM will take place at 7-30pm on Monday 9th March 2020 at the Toby Carvery, Forest Road, Loughborough, LE11 3HU. Please try and attend as we have had difficulty in achieving a quorum in some previous years.
After the formal aspects of the meeting we will be discussing our response to the Strategic Transport Priorities (STP) report for Leicester and Leicestershire which is out for consultation (see below) and the proposal by Loughborough College to stop cycling through their site on the former Radmoor Road.
Strategic Transport Priorities Report
This report sets out where the city and county can work together on tackling poor air quality and the effects of climate change while supporting the local economy.
The principal aims are to:
- improve connectivity;
- support and drive the economy to unlock growth;
- create high quality environments for communities to thrive;
- ensure development is sustainable and maximises social and environmental benefits;
- support the transition to a low carbon and circular economy;
- support national and international efforts in combatting the impacts of and adapting to climate change;
- maximise opportunities from technological innovations;
- address wider social challenges including accessibility, severance, and deprivation;
- improve public health, by tackling sedentary behaviour and poor air quality;
- focus transport investment and funding to achieve the biggest impact for the City and County.
As is customary the report suggests that continued reliance on the private car is inevitable - “bus or mass rapid transit services are rarely practical or financially viable for longer, inter-city connectivity.” It then rather contradicts itself when going on to say “Commercial coach services are a notable exception”. While there are many references to “strategic road and rail” schemes, the emphasis remains on facilitating travel by car.
At the head of the challenges listed in the document is “People are increasingly likely to live in a different area to where they work. This results in increased demand for commuter travel. Commuter travel to/from outside the County, or to/from rural villages is likely to be by private car, resulting in further pressure on the road network.”
This is stating the obvious reason for the vast increase in traffic congestion over the last century, but appears to be accepted as inevitable, rather than something that can and should be reversed. With climate change bringing threats of weather extremes such as flooding, heavy snow and extreme cold, our communities would be much more robust if people had more compact travel requirements and are able to cycle or walk to the majority of the places they need to get to.
Whilst reference is made to Leicester’s “Hub and Spoke” Plan, there are no radical proposals such as making it impossible for cars to pass through Leicester or the Market Towns. Limiting car access has been shown, in such places as Groningen in the Netherlands, to be the most effective way of encouraging a modal shift to walking and cycling.
It also states that “Leicestershire is a predominantly rural county. Long-distance bus or mass rapid transit services are rarely practicable or financially viable in rural counties. Travel by walking or cycling is equally poor in some areas.” It ignores the fact that the reason the public transport is not viable in rural areas is that almost all travel is by car, so that the numbers using buses are so low that the services are not viable. The way to reverse this is to make car travel awkward while making the bus the most attractive and cost effective option to the traveller. Nor does it consider promoting cycle/bus options with people being encouraged to cycle a mile or two to an express bus route with secure bicycle parking at the bus stop.
'Close Pass' Talk
We have received an invitation from the Leicester Cycling Campaign Group to attend a talk to be given by Mark Hodson, from the West Midlands Police (WMP) 'Close Pass' project. It will be of particular interest to learn more about how WMP managed to have great success in reducing serious and fatal accidents involving cyclists, as the results in Leicestershire were not nearly so impressive. The talk will follow the campaign’s AGM on 28th March at Leicester Secular Hall, 75 Humberstone Gate starting at 11.30am . The talk is open to anyone interested in the subject.
There’s billions here and billions there, but is it for buses or is it for bikes? Is it new money, or a whole load of hype? The Prime Minister has announced that five billion pounds of new funding is to be made available to overhaul bus and cycle links for every region in England outside London over the next 5 years.
Funding for active travel is usually referenced separately to the bus budget, because they’re different. Lumping them together is a great way to hide the truth with a bigger number! The Prime Minister was asked how much of the £5 billion would be spent on cycling. His answer was “in the first stage, £350 million”. Since this budget covers 5 years and the population of the UK is c.66m this amounts to just over £1 per head per annum.
The announcement proclaimed a commitment to building “over 250 miles of new, high-quality separated cycle routes”. With 460 parliamentary constituencies outside London each constituency can expect 0.54 miles of new routes. Hardly an active travel network. To put this in perspective, just Chris Boardman’s Bee Network plan for Greater Manchester involves a fully joined up cycling and walking network covering 1,800 miles.
The Government has issued its first report on progress made towards delivering the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy and the Department for Transport’s own figures show that what’s needed is at least an additional £6 billion more over the next five years.
Cut Car Use and Improve Health.
A study by Green Alliance has calculated that cutting the energy used on transport could save the NHS £3.7bn a year and prevent thousands of early deaths. The Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions points out that simply switching 1.7% of car journeys to active travel would prevent an estimated 65,000 early deaths from air pollution, and deliver £2.5bn p.a. in health benefits, principally through a reduction in diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Is the car still King?
For many years we have primarily designed transport and our cities and towns around the car and this is set to continue. However, we are witnessing a backlash to this, especially from cities across the UK.
Air pollution, dangerous roads, physical inactivity, community severance and congestion are all high priority issues facing cities and towns. The climate crisis has added another urgency on top of existing issues to reduce private motor vehicles in cities and towns across the UK.
More cities than ever before are either developing proposals or already taking action to reduce car use.
- Edinburgh will introduce a Low Emission Zone alongside a mobility plan and city centre transformation that has the potential to radically change the way people travel in the city.
- Bristol is set to ban diesel cars by 2021 in the city centre.
- Glasgow will ban motor vehicles from the city centre and promoting walking and cycling.
- Oxford is proposing the UK’s first Zero Emissions Zone to be introduced 2020.
- York will ban cars from the city centre by 2023.
- Birmingham will charge polluting cars to enter their Low Emission Zone and is seeking to ban car journeys across the city centre.
- Cardiff is proposing to introduce a congestion charge to help fund its transport plan.
- London is to expand its Ultra Low Emissions Zone to a much wider area by 2021.
- North Tyneside refuses planning permission requiring additional road capacity.
- Cambridge has just built a new housing development on the outskirts of the city where car parking space will cost £85 per month to rent.
For many years we have primarily designed transport and our cities and towns around the car. If you look to national government policy this is set to continue - we are about to see record investment made in increasing strategic and major road capacity across England. However, cities have no room for more cars.
City leaders are becoming much more ambitious in their strategies to reduce car use and this has the potential to make their cities better for people, businesses and visitors.
Sustrans’ research in Scotland showed that people who drive are not committed to using cars, they use the most attractive transport modes for different journeys. In fact, more than two thirds (70%) of Scottish town and city dwellers think we shouldn’t need cars for everyday journeys.
Many initiatives to reduce car use can also raise funding to invest in walking, cycling and public transport. This is critical to ensure people have attractive alternatives to driving. Streets that are less dominated by motor traffic also make walking and cycling far more attractive options, while reduced congestion can speed up bus times where there isn’t road space for separate bus lanes.
So many cities taking action will open the door to others to follow. With elections coming up in many cities across the UK, including London, Greater Manchester, the West Midlands, Liverpool and Bristol in 2020, pledges in relation to the climate crisis can be expected to feature heavily.
Climate change has meant things, like reducing car use, which traditionally weren’t an option to transport planners, are now being openly discussed and considered by local decision-makers.
We only have to look to the Continent, for examples in Denmark and the Netherlands, to see what can be achieved when there is the political will.