A new Urban Design and Transport Planning Philosophy for a Sustainable Future

This article is from notes taken by Dinah Sage at the talk given to Rail and Bus for Herefordshire on 23 November 2016 by Professor John Whitelegg of the Stockholm Environment Institute.

Image by Laurent Mercat, Vélivert Intermodalité STAS, CC BY-SA 3.0

Professor Whitelegg has worked with community groups worldwide, saving pedal rickshaws in Calcutta, working with groups in Britain, saving the Settle -Carlisle Railway. He believes that railways should be accountable with a public service remit.

He is questioning why Deutsche Bahn’s excellent service and use of renewable energy has not be transferred to its subsidiary Arriva Wales. He is hoping his letter will be published in the German newspapers.

Good things

Freiburg – a German city similar to Hereford – has totally turned its transport system around in the last forty years. Only a quarter of journeys are by car. The transport system is integrated, with high quality bus, train and bike routes. When a large housing estate was planned, it was designed to be car-free, and the tramline to the city was put in first. Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands have similar systems. There is not one in Britain.

In Switzerland hourly buses connect Basle railway station to small towns and villages.

Tourists staying in the Black Forest are given a free transport pass. It gives a psychological boost to using public transport. The area has similarities to Shrewsbury to Hereford, and is booming.

Why is transport so bad in the UK?

The problem lies deeper than the integration of buses and trains

Decision makers on transport do not relate the problems to bigger issues.

Our transport system is regressive – it seems designed to take from the poor and give to the rich.

Highspeed rail, airports and roads do not address the problems faced by old people, those on limited incomes or children.

The funds allocated for an M4 relief road round Cardiff, supposedly to ease congestion and boost economic growth, could be used to create a South Wales Metro on the German model.

The connection between transport and social exclusion was examined in a Cabinet Office report in 2003. But the political system rejects evidence. The Implications for health and climate change are ignored.

Good public transport maximises economic activity.

If you want a city to be cheaper to run – have good public transport. High car use is very expensive. The International Organisation for Public Transport shows that a public transport system can be cheaper.

Opinion surveys are generally ignored by politicians. When asked if they would prefer more road and no buses, most people would say no.

The possibility that the social costs of looking after old people and children could be lower, and the population could be healthier are ignored.

Bad News

Climate change is worsening. According to the Stockholm Environment Institute, homes and manufacturing are becoming more efficient, but transport is out of control.

Public Health officials do not understand the impact of transport on health – contributing to obesity, cancer and lung disease.

There is no mention of an air quality action plan on the Herefordshire county website – even though it is a legal requirement. Particle emissions are not monitored.

The air quality in Hereford falls below acceptable levels. Councillors know this, but the leaders decided to build more roads – making the problem worse.

Road congestion near Hereford Cathedral is bad for road safety, and health – but so far no-one has been killed, so no attention is paid.

What do we do?

If there is a consultation or survey, or at the school gate, talk, argue, lobby to show that the situation can be improved.

The idea of change is thought ridiculous but ridiculous debates have happened before. Providing access to clean water and sewers for all was once considered too expensive. The society for the Protection of Slavery made a case for slavery being necessary to the economy.

We are really backward. 100,000 vehicle in London contribute to 9000 deaths a year.

  • Need to argue convincingly that this is wrong
  • Public health implications are appalling
  • Fiscal accountability would provide a different way of assessing transport costs
  • Cities become cheaper to run.
  • Helps to mitigate climate change
  • Transport needs to be seen in a wider context.

Can we raise the level of discussion?

  • Convince government to ensure fiscal policy aids investment in better transport systems.
    • This would help the environment
    • And mitigate climate change
  • Join forces, eg groups campaigning for speed reduction join groups trying to improve bus services, railways, provision for cyclists and walkers. As in Sweden’s’ Living Streets and Vision Zero (no more road deaths).
  • Use facts and figures – see CAT’s (Centre for Alternative Technology) Zero Carbon Britain and the Stockholm Environment Institute’s Vision Zero.

Good News

There are numerous examples of chipping away at negativity such as Energiewende in Germany. Deutsche Bahn has joined in – all its trains will run on renewable energy (except Arriva).

There are many groups in Europe arguing for the transformation of transport.

The New York transport commissioner has made several squares car-free.

Local groups with an interest in transport are working hard – campaigns for buses, railway groups, those interested in roads, cycling and accessibility of services.

 

Consultation on Worcestershire’s Next Local Transport Plan

Worcestershire County Council has a consultation open on its next Local Transport Plan (LPT4). The consultation runs until 17 March 2017.

Select here for the information on the County Council web site.

Our Dinah Sage has looked plan and has produced the following summary and suggestions:

Local Transport – Have a Say!

The The Local Transport Plan for 2017-2030 makes reference to the health and environmental benefits of active travel, but most of the detail is based on roads.

The consultation runs until 17th March. It suggests reading the LTP4 documents and links to a straightforward survey.

Here are some suggestions for pages of particular local or environmental interest.

The Local Transport Plan

A key showing how transport schemes are prioritised, from “in construction” to “emerging concepts” can be found on page 16.

Malvern Hills comes under “South Worcestershire Area Profile”. (p28)

Environmentally interesting description of Active Travel. (p35)

Great Malvern Town Centre Regeneration Scheme. (p42)

Transport policies

Consultation and partnership (p7-10, p13-14)

Pedestrians (p16-18)

Cycle infrastructure. (p23-28)

Integrated passenger transport. (p29)

  • Bus costs low (p30)
  • Information (p31)
  • Parish councils and old bus stops (p32)
  • Subsidies for buses (p33-35)

Motorcycling (p39)

Climate change (p42-46, especially p44)

The Worcestershire Network Management Plan

This document does make reference to health, promoting travel choices and an Air Quality Action Plan, though the detail is mostly roads.

The environment is barely mentioned in Transport Technology. (p26)
Travel Choices (p28) especially

  • improving access to information NMP9
  • travel choices major trip generator
  1. working NMP12
  2. travel planning NMP13
  3. station travel plans NMP14
  4. car share database NMP15

Habitats Regulation Assessment

Acronyms (p3)

If a scheme may lead to damage to human health – the Precautionary Principle is triggered. (p6, para 1.3.5)

A detailed study is not required. (p15)

Strategic environmental assessment

Assessment of alternative approaches (bottom of p6)

Summary of assessment findings – South Worcestershire (starts p11)

Climate change (p11-12)

Population and Communities- effect on households without a car (p13-14)

Health and Well Being (p14)

Next steps (p18)

Priorities and objectives for LTP4 (p21)

Climate change (p25)

Assessment questions (Table 1.4 on p28) include communities (p29,30) health and wellbeing (p30) especially access to the countryside for recreation

Statutory consultation (p23, para 1.5.1) is required with Natural England, the Environment Agency and Historic England.

In my opinion, this seems to mean that consultation with user groups is left until the final stage, when the main decisions have effectively been made. Accessibility to services by public transport, walking or cycling is particularly important for people whose health or budget precludes car ownership. But including walking or cycling links requires forward planning to integrate them with new housing developments or road upgrades.

I hope this encourages you to take part in the survey, as alternative views take time and repetition to be accepted.

Dinah Sage

Electric Bike Loan Scheme

This is an old post for the most up to date information see here 

Test before you invest

Good electric bikes are a big investment £1,000-£2,000 but a wonderful way of getting about in hilly areas. We think people need to experience the benefits over about 2 weeks and then get good help to choose if it is right for them, if so where to buy. This is what our scheme offers.

elecbike1

We can also put you in touch with other users in Malvern area.

We have chosen ‘step through’ frames with easy adjustable saddle height. All our bikes have a rack and panniers for shopping, a stand, lights, a lock and simple re-charging from your 3 pin plug. We have selected 2 different systems a hub drive and a crank drive and can tell you about the relative benefits.

Ring 01684 540284  or email robin@robincoates.com

Why electric bikes?

Electric Bicycles are very similar to conventional bikes in construction but they have been fitted with a battery, a controller and a motor in order to assist the cyclist. This can be a kit fitted to a standard bike or a bike designed for the purpose, with the electrics built into the bike.

elecbike2

Some bikes have their motors in the front wheel some in the back wheel and some drive through the chain –  all three systems seem to work well and nearly all the modern machines have  either 24volt or 36volt Lithium batteries. They are very easy to ride and anyone who can ride a bike will instantly feel at home.

Fun

Before we tell you all the economical and environmental reasons why you should have an electric bike, we must stress that they are really good fun. You get all the pleasure and fresh air of a bicycle, without the hard work, like a moped but without the fumes, noise or cost.

First time riders always have a big smile on their face and many have commented “It’s like riding a bike only with a big hand to give you a push on the difficult bits”.

Health and Hills

It is said that a conventional bike keeps you fitter, but that of course depends how much, if at all, it is being used. Riding an electric bike is a real pleasure, even in hilly country or into the wind, so their owners are inclined to make more use of them. The motor can provide up to half the effort, but means more exercise for the rider. For more strenuous exercise you can switch the motor to a lower assistance ratio or even turn it off completely.

elecbike3

Perspiration may not be a serious issue when out for a leisurely ride, but it is relevant when cycling to work. An electric bicycle eliminates the problem and allows riders to wear their normal clothing and really enjoy the journey.

If you are or have been, a regular cyclist but are beginning to find it a bit too much then you really must try an electric bike. Suddenly those trips that seemed a bit too long appear to  have halved and hills that were too steep have miraculously flattened!

 Economy

Electric bikes are incredibly frugal compared to motorbikes and cars. On average they cost less than 2p to recharge which is the equivalent of 1,000mpg (20 times the mpg of a small car).

Electric bikes are treated just like ordinary bicycles for legislative purposes so there’s no need to worry about Log Books, MOT, Road Tax, etc.

Most of the working non-electrical parts are standard cycle parts so regular servicing, like replacing tyres or brakes, are very cheap compared to car repairs.

 Green

Using an electric bike is a good way to wean yourself off cars. The average car journey in Britain is 8 miles and every day people make millions of small journeys to work, or to the shops and back, that could easily be non-polluting bike rides.

An electric bicycle can be made genuinely sustainable. Purchasing electricity from a ‘green’ supplier, or generating it via a roof-mounted solar panel, enables the vehicle’s fossil fuel consumption to be zero.

For help with supply and service: www.malverncycles.org.uk

For other information on the Loan Scheme, ring 01684 540284  or email [sf_email]robin@robincoates.com[/sf_email]