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.

Encouraging more walking & cycling – well I never

Walking and cycling destinations from Rimrose Valley County Park Country Park.

The BBC has the story on its website – see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-52592421

Quote from BBC article – ‘We need to protect the public transport network as lockdown is lifted, the UK Transport Secretary is expected to say at a press conference on Saturday.

The BBC understands Grant Shapps will encourage the public to continue to work from home if they can.

Those people who need to travel into a workplace will be urged to consider choosing more active ways to travel like walking and cycling.

The intention is to take pressure off roads and public transport networks.

It is believed that Mr Shapps will talk about using the unique “opportunity” of the lockdown restrictions to change the way we get to work.’

That folks are walking and cycling more during our present health crisis is a given and it’s clearly a big positive, along with less pollution producing traffic of course, in these difficult times. Interestingly though governments have shown little enthusiasm for promoting healthier pollution-free ways to travel over many generations other than via sound-bite token nods towards walking and cycling to try to make themselves look green.

Now, however, government is in a fix when it comes to unlocking lockdown due to buses and trains not being able to move large groups of people because of social distancing requirements. The consequence could and probably will be grid-lock on our roads as more folks turn to their polluting cars. All of a sudden Government needs a way to stop traffic jams so ‘get on your bike’ as the rather unpleasant Norman Tebbit once said although in a totally different context.

Of course for health/fitness, reducing pollution and traffic congestion reasons government is right but, and it’s a big BUT, our cycling infrastructure is poor, inadequate, crap etc. compared with many other European countries. You see more enlightened European governments have been investing in it over all those generations that UK politicians have been making but token noises and throwing the odd crumb off the table. How the chickens have come home to roost…….

A map produced to show Merseyside/Liverpool City Region cycling route aims of recent times. Many are still that aims….

My previous blog posting of January 2019, regarding quite limited plans to improve walking and cycling infrastructure on Merseyside seems to be relevant too, so here it is:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/01/11/walking-and-cycling-in-the-liverpool-city-region-lcr/

Click on the photos to enlarge them…….

Bus Lanes – Ditched in Liverpool for political brownie points – Well that’s my view

The Liverpool Echo has the article on its website – see link below

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/mayor-joe-andersons-decision-scrap-15699959

I’ve always thought that taking out 22 of Liverpool’s 26 bus lanes was a backwards step which would inevitably mean later running and more unreliable buses plus it was certainly a poke in the eye to all who hold environmental issues close to their hearts.

Yes, it was popular with many car and van drivers; well it would be wouldn’t it! My guess is that it was done to make it look like having an elected Mayor for Liverpool City meant that decisive policy changes could be easily and popularly be made. In other words, it was a political decision with little thought towards the need to challenge how the majority of us need to change our travelling habits.

That Nottingham is mentioned in the Echo article is very much to the point because that city is one that’s leading the charge to change the way its citizens move around and make those movements more sustainable. It’s a long-term process for change but if Nottingham’s trams are anything to go by the changes are all for the better.

A Nottingham NET Tram at the Phoenix Park terminus.

And Nottingham’s buses are pretty good too and seemingly reasonably reliable because of bus priority lanes and accurate on-time information about them.

Display on No.58 Nottingham bus

The bottom line is that since the failed Merseytram project Liverpool has not had a plan to make its public transport and particularly its bus network 1st class for modern day use and indeed expectations. Yes we can have a complete restructure of our bus network akin to re-regulating it (as Merseytravel are inching towards and I agree with) but if the infrastructure is not there to produce fast, reliable buses that go where people want them to go then those that can afford to will continue to use their polluting cars and accept that sitting in traffic jams is just the way that it is. Those who can’t afford to run cars or don’t wish to run cars then have no choice and are saddled with a dysfunctional bus network to get them around the city.

No, backing out of bus priority lanes was a backwards step. It got some short-term political gain but for long-term congestion and poorer transportation in the city. Not clean, not green, no fast efficient buses, no vision for transportation in a thriving city. Now go look at Nottingham and see how things can be done……..