Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Colchester is desperate for a fundamental rethink of local transport

More than seven in ten car journeys are 1-5 miles long

Many people ask us if Colchester Cycling Campaign is just about cycling.

Well, yes, we like using our bikes ... but we're also interested in how cycling can solve society's ills, notably those caused by cars and lorries.

Don't get us wrong. We appreciate that motor transport is very useful. Some of it is even essential in our modern world.

You have to admit, though, it has taken over a teensy little bit. The exhaust pipe is wagging the driver, so to speak.

Before you ask, most of CCC's 400 members and supporters are drivers, too, but we tend not to use cars every day or for short journeys. This means that when you really need to use your car, there's at least one less car in front of you.

Short journeys are the curse of towns the length and breadth of Britain. Nearly 20 per cent of trips under one mile and 70 per cent of trips of one to five miles are made by car. Many of these are made at peak times. To put these figures into context, an ordinary able-bodied person of virtually any age should be able to cycle a mile in five minutes, or five miles in 25 minutes, and there are now power assisted ebikes for those for whom pushing pedals is just too much effort. You can zoom up those hills!

We understand that some people have to make longer trips, and others like the comfort of their car, and listening to Emma Bunton while sat in a jam.

But wouldn't it be marvellous if a good number of those people making short trips were on bikes on separate, protected cycle routes next to main roads, just like those in London, where they have taken space from the car?

Even a small number switching from car to bike would make the world of difference. Imagine if the town's children could get to school by bike rather than in Mum's Taxi.

So what is the solution?

We want to see a town where people, young, old and in between, can ride safely and confidently. To achieve this, we need a high-quality cycle network.

Some say "build it and they will come" and in London that has happened. In Essex, it might mean less carrot and more stick, but then the county's dinosaurs are still thinking mainly about the car. (Look for instance at the plans for the A133 road: £10m spent on making cycling and walking worse, not to mention scarier.)

Colchester is growing at a huge rate. CCC believes that the issue of local transport in Essex needs a rethink at the most fundamental level.

We ought to be addressing the matter with a combination of managing motor traffic demand (filtering to discourage short trips by car and/or congestion charging) and installing high quality alternatives for bus users, cyclists and walkers.

At present the priority given to motor transport and the hazards this creates (both subjective and real) mean we have a dangerously skewed transport system.

Also, Essex County Council is not taking a holistic view. At its recent A133 consultation an officer was asked about why the plan wasn't better for bikes. His response was: "Bikes? No, this is all about cars."

ECC's deliberations are not taking proper account of issues like combating climate change (it has a "team" you can email but not one officer to take responsibility) and public health in relation to transport (this includes issues such as quality of life, greater independence for young and old, air quality, mental health, obesity, heart disease and diabetes).

It is even promoting wider roads like the A120 and A12 which would have unfettered use —without considering that most journeys start or end in towns. It will be chaos.


At the same time ECC is dancing to the tune of its business pursestring-holders in the nondemocratic, unaccountabhle local enterprise partnership, made up mainly of business people who, naturally, don't take a rounded view. It doesn't like challenges from people such as CCC so it tries to keep its schemes secret for as long as possible to minimise criticism.


We need a complete, fresh approach. Please send a link to this blog to your local councillor to say why you'd like to see more people cycling. Mention that high quality cycleways are needed, not the usual British rubbish. Then press them. And press them again and again and again.

Good luck with making your voice heard.

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PS: The Dutch are still tidying up after the car. See this link.

If you live outside Essex and want more information on campaigning organisations nationally, contact Cycling UK and the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain.

William Bramhill, September 28 2016

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