Active Travel is key for fairer Transport

A letter from Cllr Joanna Wright to the Chronicle, August 12th 2021

Cllr Warren and Cllr Rigby’s recent letter is keen to paint a picture of the Liberal Democrat administration that is supposedly delivering a fairer, healthier and well-connected community. 

They are absolutely right, toxic air affects us all, it is an unseen public health issue that should transcend politics.  Everyone has the right to breathe clean air.  Bath’s Clean Air Zone was not a Lib Dem initiative but was mandated by central Government after a High Court ruling that ordered ministers to require local authorities to investigate and identify measures to tackle illegal levels of pollution as soon as possible. Whoever was controlling B&NES Council would have been required to deliver a Clean Air Zone for Bath. 

The planning and consultation work for the present scheme was undertaken under the previous Conservative administration. The present Lib Dem administration have implemented this scheme.  But whether this Clean Air Zone is fit for purpose is still unclear. The summer is a time when fewer homes are heated, which lowers pollution levels, and coupled with the closure of Cleveland Bridge and dispersed traffic, the present data on pollution levels in the clean air zone is skewed. It was quite clear when I was joint Cabinet Member for Transport at B&NES that there was a fine line in Bath for the clean air zoneto reach legal compliance. We will all have to wait and see if Bath becomes compliant.

The Lib Dem’s do not like questions, negative letters in the Chron or scaremongering on social media. Their present rhetoric on delivering fairer transport options for residents and healthier and connected communities forgets that Liveable Neighbourhoods will only work if the city has a broader active travel network that continues to allow residents to move easily and safely from one part of the city to another. This overall network is not in place or currently part of the community conversations. For example, the current main road cycle infrastructure in Bath is not fit for purpose. 

The present traffic layout on the London Road was delivered by a previous Lib Dem administration and has failed those who presently walk and cycle its length.  Those who do not have access to cars have few options. Cllr Rigby made these options even harder with her work to remove VOI’s e-scooter trial on the canal tow path.  The option for those without a car is to use main roads without statutory cycle infrastructure. 

Boris wants all local authorities to stop marginalising active travel and has set Government national guidance for highway authorities called LTN1/20 to make sure that cycling becomes an everyday form of mass transport. The current “Active Travel Fund” scheme proposed for Upper Bristol Road, looks like it will fail to meet LTN1/20 guidelines, and could easily result in B&NES having to return all the funding, whilst delivering some elements of cycle infrastructure that are possibly more dangerous to active travel users than the design that already exists.

The Climate Emergency requires urgent action today and the one area local government can influence is the public highway. Data clearly shows not only toxic air, but growing carbon emissions are a public health issue and code red for humanity. This Liberal Democrat Council could deliver statutory green infrastructure and access the £2 billion active travel fund set in place by the Dept for Transport which would help it deliver on its own rhetoric about the need for social justice and the unfairtravel infrastructure for those who do not own vehicles. Those who do not own or have access to vehicles would then be able to move safely, fairly and healthily across the city of Bath, whilst encouraging those with access to vehicles to switch modes and together help combat rising emissions and mitigatethe effects of global heating.

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