From our affiliates: Extinction Rebellion

I am writing this in response to Bradford Councils proposal to expand Canal Road into a four lane road.

Despite declaring a climate emergency in 2019, the Council seems incapable of acting in a way commensurate with the climate facts. 2020 was the hottest year since records began. Nineteen of the warmest years have occurred since 2000, with the exception of 1998. The year 2020 tied with 2016 for the warmest year on record since record-keeping began in 1880 (source: NASA/GISS).

We already have illegal levels of dirty air on the route of the A657 as it passes through Saltaire and air pollution at many other locations in the district. Every day tens of thousands of vehicles spew noxious fumes affecting the health of citizens and in particular schoolchildren whose schools are sited along our roads. 191 people every year die in the Bradford District because of toxic air.

Research since the 70’s has highlighted the fact that more roads bring more traffic. If you make it easier to drive, more people will drive.

How ironic when back in the 1850’s Titus Salt built Saltaire to escape Bradford’s pollution!

We need a fundamental shift in transport policies away from endless road building to a huge increase in the provision of affordable, and clean air friendly, public transport. Active travel needs to be encouraged and funded to tackle fumes, congestion, public health crises like obesity, asthma, diabetes and heart disease. Encouraging the positive benefits of quieter streets, clean air, more birdsong and nature; streets for people not cars.

A recent Dutch study (Cycling Embassy of Denmark) found that, in terms of socio-economic costs, cars cost 79 cents (with fuel, parking, road building, ill health) and cycling gains 72 cents (with health and climate benefits).

In terms of building infrastructure for the future for every 1Km of highway built you could provide 100Km of cycle ways. (Manuel Calvo, Seville bicycle way architect)

Cars are the least space-efficient way of moving people and goods around – a three-metre wide lane can move 700 to 1,100 people per hour in cars, whereas for bicycles and walking this increases from 2,000 to 6,500.  There are also multiple city case studies, such as the construction of Cycle Superhighways in London, which show that changing car space to bicycle space does not adversely affect car travel times.

The truth is giving more road space to bicycles and pedestrians does not make traffic worse and quieter, safer streets can increase the footfall in the city centre, as most other cities have discovered.

During lockdown Gov figures show cycling increased by 380% and other means of traffic dropped 90%. Cycling turns out to be a cheap and fast solution to our city problems of toxic air and congestion.

It followed unprecedented levels of walking and cycling seen across the UK during the pandemic and an attempt to encourage people to make healthier travel choices and to choose alternatives to public transport as they started to return to work.

The £250m emergency active travel fund was the first stage of a £2bn investment promised to boost greener, active travel.

What did the transport secretary say? Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “With public transport’s capacity severely restricted at this time, our trains and buses could become overcrowded and our roads gridlocked – holding up emergency services, critical workers and vital supplies.

“We know cars will continue to remain vital for many, but as we look to the future we must build a better country with greener travel habits, cleaner air and healthier communities.”

I recognise that politicians only have a four year ‘lifespan’, they need to get re elected and don’t want to be perceived as unfairly demonising car owners. But if we make changes now we will save so much more than money in the long run. We will save lives and create a city that people want to live in.

If Bradford Council are serious about their Climate Emergency and their commitment to Clean Air and a decarbonised transport system in our district they must instigate a Citizens Assembly on Climate Change. Let the people learn about the issues, debate the solutions and give them a mandate to instigate the radical solutions necessary to benefit us all.

Paul McHugh, Extinction Rebellion Bradford

Is car ownership another pandemic?

Will Sanderson contributes this blog from Shipley and Saltaire Living Streets

Reports of another pandemic are starting to buzz on the news wires. It is more insidious than the one we’ve just lived through, and we’re already losing the race to find a solution. As it travels invisibly through the air causing respiratory disease and excess deaths, people get scared. Tragically, this one also kills kids. Social interactions are curtailed, communities feel the strain, mental health suffers. The poorest are hit hardest, but we all start to feel powerless and disenfranchised. The next pandemic is car-owner virus.

Car dominance, and the entitlement it engenders in drivers, has a lot to answer for: contributing to climate change, polluting the air we breathe, making conversation in the street difficult and unpleasant, isolating the elderly and disabled, disturbing our sleep, contributing to roadside litter, and resulting directly in avoidable injury and deaths.

According to the Council’s own reports, cars are the biggest contributor to air pollution in Bradford, causing 1 in 20 early deaths in the region, and costing local NHS Trusts around £3million per year. Around 200 people are killed or seriously injured on Bradford’s roads every year. And still, millions of pounds are being spent adding capacity to the road network, while too little is done to provide the infrastructure and incentives for alternative modes of transport. This is why 40% of journeys under 2 miles are currently made by car. Now is the time to enable and encourage active travel: a simple lifestyle change that has such enormous health and social benefits.

Shipley & Saltaire Living Streets, in support of the excellent campaigning done by the Bradford Shipley Travel Alliance, Clean Air Bradford, and Friends of the Earth, are calling for an end to car-centric thinking in planning and transport (avoid), more joined-up cycling and walking routes (shift), and measures to prevent antisocial driving, parking and rat-running (improve). We need your help! Commit to leaving the car at home whenever possible, or get in touch to join our team. We especially need some help from parents of primary-aged children (to start a walking/cycling bus and play streets), young adults with a flair for social media (to run our accounts), and artistic folk (to do some tactical urbanism).

We have a choice, now, between a cleaner future for people, places and our planet, or continuing with activities which damage our health and environment. Walk with us.

Affiliate spotlight: Veg on the Edge

In the first of our blogs from affilliates, Margot Rowan describes Veg on the Edge

We are a group of volunteers who work together in Saltaire transforming plots of under-used land into community food growing spaces. We meet regularly through the seasons planning, digging, composting, planting, watering, weeding. Once the vegetables, fruit and herbs are ready to eat, everyone is welcome to help themselves and enjoy the produce.

Our plots are well used by people living and working nearby who appreciate access to package-free, fresh, healthy ingredients grown locally in pleasant green surroundings. Just now we have herbs and salad ingredients ready to be picked, lots more in the days to come ….

Members of Veg on the Edge are concerned about the impact of traffic pollution on food production and soil quality near to busy roads. They also know that an appropriate green infrastructure can reduce public exposure to air pollution in the urban environment. They would like these issues to be part of the council’s agenda when planning.

Currently we have 5 growing spaces – The Sunday School Garden in Caroline Street, The Japanese Edible Garden on Exhibition Road, Platform One at Saltaire Railway Station, The Wash House Garden on Caroline Street and The Baker Beds at the far end of Caroline Street.

As well as cultivating our edible crops we are involved in many local events.

You may see us at Saltaire Festival in September.

New members of all ages are very welcome. Gardening expertise is not necessary. 

To find out more about us or join in our activities visit our website: www.vegontheedge.org