Image courtesy of Urban Movement
I’ve had a very sociable Spring. I’ve given and received more smiles than normal and spoken to more of my neighbours than usual. I’ve been to local and independent shops more than ever before. Together with my wife, my six-year-old and next door’s dog, I’ve explored and rediscovered nature, much closer to home than usual, because I’ve walked or cycled from my door rather than driving somewhere first.
For all the wrong reasons, we’ve been given a sneak preview of how pleasant the world can truly be with less traffic in it. More pedestrians and cyclists, bird song, cleaner air, a safer cycle to work and a calmer mind, are the things I’ve been most aware of.
This will have to change of course. Years of unimaginative planning mean that our society isn’t able to function at the reduced traffic levels that have allowed many of us to enjoy the quality of life currently being experienced.
It is inevitable that traffic volumes will increase in the short term, but the choices we make in the coming weeks and months will determine what the future holds and whether we can find ways to live with lower traffic levels in the longer term.
Hopefully, many of us will vote with our feet and our pedals to show that active travel is the right personal choice, for both our physical and mental well-being. However, to truly be able to look back and see this Spring as a real turning point in our travel behaviour, we need brave and inspired political leadership.
As we begin the return to work, shunning the shared confines of public transport, it is vital that we provide enough space for pedestrians and cyclists, to allow for social distancing and to secure their safety, if walking and cycling are to remain the natural choices for local journeys.
There are a number of local councils around the UK, including Leeds, Manchester and York, who are already responding to this requirement, with additional measures being deployed on a temporary basis. These include quick, low cost solutions, such as the use of bollards and planters to convert through-roads into cul-de-sacs, or to create temporary bike lanes and wider pavements, as well as the dissuasion or prohibition of pavement parking. Temporary Traffic Regulation Orders and the significant amount of money announced recently by Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, will make implementation of such schemes easier to achieve.
However, North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) have made it clear that they will only make changes if there is sufficient public demand for action. It is therefore important that we communicate our concerns and suggestions for the reallocation of road space for safer travel, to our local councillors or David Bowe (David.Bowe@northyorks.gov.uk), the NYCC Business and Environmental Services Director.
It really does feel to me that the decisions we make now will ring through the years and even through the generations. The current Covid-19 crisis highlights how helpless we can be when circumstances go beyond our control. Making the right decisions on traffic and transport will not only give us a better world today but also reduce the chance of climate change becoming the biggest of all circumstances beyond our control.
To hear more about a positive transport vision for the future, join me at our ‘Post Pandemic Visions: Cleaner, Greener Transport’ webinar on 27 May. Find out more at here
Rod Beardshall, Zero Carbon Harrogate Transport Lead