Free parking/travel – putting transport in a climate change context

I often feel that this highly emotional subject actually hides a much bigger travel issue which involves us all and needs to be tackled if we are serious about climate change.

The bottom line is that use of petrol and diesel powered vehicles has to come to an end and the sooner the better. More of us need to walk or cycle shorter distances. Public transport, when it becomes OK to use it again, needs to be significantly extended as motor vehicles start to be used less often.

Parking of vehicles is a big issue, whether that be at hospitals (staff and visitors) or indeed anywhere else. Our streets are becoming choked with abandoned (I use that word deliberately) cars when they are not in use. We expect somewhere to park our cars wherever we go and when we can’t park legally/in a car park we abandon our cars on pavements, grass verges, in cycle lanes, across private/business accesses/driveways.

In short privately owned motor vehicles are our problem, not the solution to our travel difficulties.

Of course public transport has been run down over many years via cuts in subsidies and by people not using it. You can track it back to prior to the Beeching era as Beeching was in itself a reaction to the rise in road transport. Ironically the buses which were, with cars, seen to be the solution when railway lines closed have in themselves been pushed further and further to the sidelines as cars have taken over our roads.

We’ve designed/planned a society that has become reliant on the ownership of the private car with those who don’t have one being left to fend for themselves. We’ve invested countless Billions of £’s in a transport system which has. however inadvertently. encouraged the continual growth of the private car. We now face the prospect of trying to put all that into some form of what will most likely be a disorderly and unpopular reverse to try to save our planet. Imagine what the Daily Mail will say!

My view has long been that local public transport should either be free or with just a one-off daily charge for it’s use such as a £1 a day. But that in itself is only part of the solution as we need to significantly improve the bus network so that it’s clean, frequent, reliable, easily accessible and it works in harmony with our local rail networks. Bus, rail & trams are not rivals, they need to be integrated, efficient and cheap to use. We need to arrive at a point where car users say to themselves that running a car is too expensive and they’d rather read a book travelling to work on a train/bus than sit in traffic jams. And don’t scoff, this is all possible should be want it to be.

And yes I’m a car driver a pedestrian and a cyclist. I try to use my car as little as I can and I feel we need to find a way to make the use of cars more expensive the greater the mileage that is done. If you choose to work many miles away from where you live that journey has consequences for our environment. So surely that should mean you paying more per mile into public coffers than someone who has chosen to live much closer to their place of work and does much less mileage. Of course if you live close to your place of work there should be rewards in the system especially if you use public transport, walk or cycle. Putting it simply the taxation system should reward walkers, cyclists and public transport users.

And what did you do and how did you feel about lockdown?

The Good

When the roads were quiet and building sites closed the world seemed more peaceful and you could hear the birds singing – I enjoyed listening to the silence and the birds.

With traffic hardly moving our polluted world smelled cleaner – I enjoyed that cleaner air

People were out walking country lanes in significant numbers – I envisaged we had gone back to the 1950’s (NO not in a Brexiteer way!)

Cyclists everywhere, goodness me cycling took off with the combination of more free time and generally good weather – I participated but then I’ve been a fitness and leisure cyclist for quite a number of years.

The Bad

Isolated shielding people alone in their houses – I felt so sorry for them and tried to help where I could

Speeding traffic became a really big issue because although there were many less vehicles on our roads the speeds they were doing were frightening – I called on both Merseyside and Lancashire Police (via Twitter) to get a grip but I guess my pleas fell on deaf ears.

Doing DIY became a big challenge as everything had to be ordered on line and either picked up later or it was delivered days, often many days, later – I found this so frustrating when I wanted to get on with various household jobs.

I missed the English cricket season so much – I watched a couple of old games repeated on TV but spring and summer is cricket to me, oh how I missed thwack of willow on leather – until today that is.

‘The police have better things to do than’………

This is probably a phrase that many of us have used when we’ve heard about an incident which is either of no consequence to us or is one we regularly participate in but which is actually against some law or regulation.

So when we say it are we in reality saying ‘well I would break that law too’ or ‘that law should be abolished because I regularly break it’; is it actually simply an expression of our frustration or even selfishness? Let’s see what you think the Police ‘have better things to do than’ – here are 5 examples:-

Enforcing speed limits?
Stopping pavement parking by drivers?
Tackling cyclists who ride on pavements?
Prosecuting motorists with no Road Tax or insurance?
Fining people who break ‘lockdown’ rules?

I could go on, but I think you’ll have got my drift by now i.e. if we park on pavements we won’t want the police/local council to enforce the regulations on it will we? However, if we are a pedestrian/blind/disabled/or pushing a pram we probably will want them to. The same applies to the other ‘crimes’ I’ve listed and indeed potentially many that I’ve not.

In short we’ll often be affronted by the anti-social/criminal behaviours of others whilst conveniently ignoring our own less than community minded activities. Indeed, can we sit on both sides of the fence by for example grumbling about the vehicle on the pavement when we’ve had to step into the road to get around it whilst dumping our own car on any pavement available when we want to park close to the chippy, hairdressers, chemist etc. etc.? The answer, of course, is yes we can!

Oh and one final thing, why are many of the things we can react to in this way associated with travel and how we go about it?

Memories of Sunny Southport

Having found these two videos – see links below – on You Tube about Southport, it’s history and how it was promoted in the 1970’s (both uploaded by Michael Dawson) I had to share them:-

www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgLAZ90BXNQ

www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6MyE-ptbK8

And how the seaside resort is presently promoted in Covid 19 times:-

www.visitsouthport.com/

What’s interesting is that clearly in the days of the former Southport Borough Council and indeed into the early days of Sefton Borough Council there was significant promotion of the famous seaside resort by or at least organised by the council. That this lead in the promotion of Southport has been all but lost via the changing priorities of the present Council and indeed austerity measures must surely have had a detrimental effect on the local economy.

I recall that during my time on Sefton Council (1999 – 2015) with 7 years of that period being as Council Leader one of my long-term concerns was that the Council was always under pressure to reduce spending on the promotion of Southport. So yes the issue well pre-dates modern-day austerity. And the reason for this pressure? The need to spend an ever greater proportion of the budget on adult social care and children in care. Now you can see why politicians of all parties had to put the elderly and children first but never the less the effect was an ever dwindling amount of money to promote our local seaside resort.

Now probably more than ever Southport needs to be promoted so this proud and historic seaside resort can return to prosperity returns after the pandemic.

Lancashire Railways 1964-1968 (Liverpool – Southport – Ormskirk – Burscough – Wigan)

The Burscough Curves are in West Lancashire. This historic shot of them is from when they were in place, in 1960’s.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJ3SxCwCcIQ

I can’t recall whether I’ve posted about this particular You Tube video before (posted by Michael Dawson – see link above) or not but it is so significant in documenting the railways around Merseyside and West Lancashire in the mid 1960’s through to the end of steam that it is well worth sharing.

It covers through trains from Liverpool Exchange to Scotland via Ormskirk, the now long gone and much missed Southport – Preston Line, the fabled Burscough Curves which OPSTA are trying to get reopened and many other delightful railway scenes.

And I’m also taking the opportunity to add in more photos by Anthony Graham, which he has kindly given me permission to use, to further illustrate in a similar timeline some of the lines the video:-

Hall Road Station 1968 with a Liverpool Lime Street to Southport Class 108 DMU in the station.

Hesketh Park Signal Box May 1968

Ormskirk Station Signal Box 1968 May

Rufford 1970 2nd May, the final Saturday 0900 Liverpool Exchange-Glasgow Central service being cautioned owing to a block failure between Rufford and Midge Hall.

Kirkdale Station 1968 looking north east

I’m sure this posting will bring back memories for many folk looking at it. How lucky we are that our railway past has been so well documented on film/video and by photographers.

Maghull – Remember when the Green Ln canal bridge had wire stretched across it?

Barge at Green Lane (Methodist Turn Bridge), Maghull

Quite some years ago (I can’t recall just when) whilst I was living in Liverpool Road North Maghull I got a call to tell me that someone had stretched wire across the Green Lane canal swing bridge. An unbelievable act of stupidity but fortunately it was spotted before a pedestrian, cyclist or vehicle encountered it unawares.

My recollection is that it did make the local press though (and the Police were involved) so if anyone has more detail I would be interested to see it. I guess it was 1980’s/1990’s. And what you may ask brought this all back to mind many years later? The link below to Cycling UK is the reason:-

www.cyclinguk.org/news/piano-wire-article-not-intended-be-taken-seriously-says-national-newspaper

The photo at the head of this posting is from far more recent times but it was exactly where the barrier is in this photo that the wire had been stretched across the road/bridge about 2ft or 3ft off the ground. We can only speculate on the damage it was expected/intended to cause by those responsible for putting it there.

So having seen such a thing having been done in the Town I called home for 43 years I’m sure you can understand why I find talk of it in a national newspaper, even suggested in satire, very worrying indeed.

What was the WW2 propaganda phrase ‘Careless Talk Cost Lives’!