New reports on roads and climate

Led by a cross-party panel, the final report of the Institute of Public Policy Research’s Environment and Justice Commission was published in July. It insists on ‘six shifts’ to make the response to climate emergency an opportunity, done with and by people, fairly and taking a whole-society approach, treating climate not in isolation but with nature, with government taking leadership but giving responsibility locally. Summarising 4 citizens juries spread through the UK, and analyses of carbon emissions and much else, on transport the report says:

“Transport decarbonisation plans must aim to make it possible to live a good life, wherever you are, without needing to own a car. This will mean that alternatives to the private car, including both public transport and shared mobility schemes, reach a level of convenience and affordability that makes them the obvious choice for personal travel for far more people than they do today.” (p99)

Roads, Runways and Resistance is a very different read. Published this year, Steve Melia entertainingly runs the winding course of government road policy, the industrial road lobby, and resistance to road schemes from 1990 to the present. Scepticism in providing for forecasts of ever-increasing traffic is a streak that has run through all governments during that time, keeping road-building a hotly contested policy.

Despite John Prescott’s 1997 promise ‘I will have failed if in five years there are not many more people using public transport and far fewer journeys by car’, the road lobby has always been powerful enough to keep policy confined to slowing traffic growth rather than putting a lid on it. The book’s final chapters chart the climate actions of recent years.

Bradford-Shipley traffic scheme: new release of (old) information

West Yorkshire Combined Authority have finally released to us the ‘Benefits Realisation Strategy and Monitoring Plan’ prepared for their traffic scheme between Bradford and Shipley in 2019. Although all the scheme details have been hidden and made unreadable, the list of aims and intended monitoring sadly reveals a lack of ambition on making a shift to traffic patterns that health and climate improvements demand.

The document claims to “summarise the principal scheme objectives and related benefits, the proposed interventions, opportunities to maximise and lock-in the benefits, their measurement and ownership” (p3).

The main objectives declared for the scheme (Table 3) are as follows:

  • “Increased capacity to a level which can accommodate the predicted demand from the residential and employment growth around the corridor
  • Reduce congestion and improve journey time reliability
  • Improve safety… with a particular focus on pedestrians and cyclists
  • To support … a modal shift from private cars
  • To improve air quality and environmental impacts”

While welcoming the aims of safety and improved air quality, it is fair to ask how will the aims be achieved? Though every measure is blacked out, the ways of monitoring the impact of the scheme are listed.

An initial concern is that the aims are not reflected in the ways the expected benefits will be measured (Table 4):

  • ‘Increased capacity’ has no quantitative target, simply ‘widened highway’.
  • ‘Modal shift from private cars’ has no target at all. Measurements will be made to reveal if there has been a change in walking, cycling and public transport, but no measurement or target of a shift to these away from private cars. WYCA has an aim from its climate emergency policy to reduce car journeys by between 21% and 38%, but there is no whiff of that realism here. 

Bradford Council officers, who develop and implement the scheme on behalf of WYCA, have said that the objectives themselves are being further developed (Ref 16 in their June 2021 response to the Shipley Labour Party’s review of the scheme). It can only be hoped that the concerns of residents and Councillors will be taken on board. It would be better if we could have a conversation rather than rely on hope. Just for confirmation, Bradford-Shipley Travel Alliance is not party political and has support from community and environmental organisations as well as from several local branches of different political parties.

The reason given by WYCA for hiding or ‘redacting’ the details is:

“Redactions have been made to information specific to the scheme itself that is still under development. The data / information is changing frequently as options are developed, assessed and refined and it is therefore not appropriate to share these at this time. Evidence summarising the Full Business Case will be provided through further consultations and other statutory processes such as Planning Approval. … We are committed to openness and transparency however we also need to ensure the integrity of the development process is protected.”

It seems clear that WYCA and Bradford Highways do not at present intend to collaborate with residents, schools and businesses affected by the scheme. Currently, it appears they intend to consult only on a finished scheme, “the Full Business Case”, not gaining residents’ inputs to the formulation of the scheme. It is our intention to intervene to change that process and influence the plans to make them better for health and climate.

Active Travel Neighbourhoods – have your say on Saltaire and Frizinghall

Bradford Council are consulting on measures to reduce through traffic in and near Saltaire and in Frizinghall (and Barkerend). The aim is to encourage walking and cycling – active travel.

The consultation offers a map of the area and invites you to click on a place you think there is a problem. The problem might be speeding cars, rat-running through an area, parking, or anything that makes walking and cycling less attractive. You don’t have to suggest solutions, but you can if you think you know what would work: examples might be blocking a road at one end, speed bumps, one-way traffic, no-through-traffic signage, bus only stretches (bus gates), cycle or pedestrian only routes, lighting, information, training, maintenance, pedestrian seating or cycle parking, vehicle restrictions around schools, creation of walking or cycling groups, removal of steps or curbs, or whatever else you think would help. You can also read comments that have been made, and agree or disagree with them.

Bradford-Shipley Travel Alliance thinks that increased traffic capacity on Canal/Valley Road would put additional traffic pressure throughout Shipley, Frizinghall and many places from Keighley to Tong, Baildon to Wyke. Along with many of our affiliates we welcome measures to make cycling and walking easier, and to reduce the need for the car to be the dominant way of travelling.

Will Sanderson of Living Streets is encouraging residents to respond to this consultation, and educating residents about the impact of more traffic on the Bradford-Shipley route. Get in touch if you can join him knocking on doors on 7th and 8th August or any other time (admin@bsta.org.uk, or Will on 07970 654333).

Government Transport Decarbonisation Plan

Press release 15th July 2021, from Bradford-Shipley Travel Alliance

The government’s plan to make transport climate-friendly has been described by a Bradford transport campaign as “too little too slow”.

“The Transport Decarbonisation Plan will do nothing to reduce congestion nor provide health benefits as particulates emissions will not be reduced, indeed are likely to increase. It doesn’t address the need to reduce car traffic,” said Ludi Simpson from the Bradford-Shipley Travel Alliance.

Published on Wednesday, the government plan aims to cut in half the transport carbon emissions from all transport by 2035. It says that local authorities will have to make carbon reductions a fundamental part of local transport planning.

Ludi Simpson said “The targets won’t save us from the disastrous consequences of further man-made global warming. They are less than demanded by the Climate Change Commission which the government itself set up to advise it.’

The campaign says that local government should be given more support to implement solutions to the climate emergency. It calls for major changes to the traffic scheme that plans to increase motor traffic on Canal and Valley Roads between Bradford and Shipley. It calls for support at www.bsta.org.uk.

– – –

Transport Decarbonisation Plan published 14/07/2021: www.gov.uk/government/publications/transport-decarbonisation-plan

Bradford-Shipley Travel Alliance: www.bsta.org.uk

Contacts for further information:

Ludi Simpson: 07747 565273

Suggest Our Strategy 13th July, 6.30-8.30 – stakeholders and alternative transport plans

Who is this meeting aimed at? All BSTA supporters, who want to see a healthy and climate friendly outcome from the Bradford-Shipley road scheme. Chris Todd from Transport Action Network will facilitate this meeting, on Zoom. Please register here: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJUodeqsrD8vHdE3ccgI01L_WGsxUr6XMWb_

Where do we want to be at the end of it? (a) To understand better how we can influence the road scheme. (b) To propose actions that are taken away to work on. (c) To make the most of the period up to early 2022, the expected time for the final formal consultation on the road’s business case.

What will we cover in the workshop? (a)Who are the players (residents, councillors, business, media etc etc)? How to shift players with most interest to have more power/influence, and shift players with most power/influence to have more interest? (b) Create a timetable of decision points. What is a good rhythm of education and campaigning to best influence the scheme? (c) What are the key things that we need to win, drawn from Chris’s experience of other road campaigns.

Please help us prepare for the meeting in these two ways:

Add to the list of ‘players’ we might want to influence, here: https://tinyurl.com/BSTAplayers

Add to the list of road improvements that you would like: https://tinyurl.com/BSTAimprovements

WYCA correspondence, keeping aims ill-defined

After an appeal, BSTA has received the ‘Benefits Realisation Strategy & Monitoring and Evaluation Plan’ for the road scheme between Bradford and Shipley. West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) sent it with all reference to specific ‘improvements’ blacked out because its planning is “still in the course of completion”. We can hope that this means the options for the road are being revised and that when published they will take into account health and climate concerns. They should include full publication and discussion of the carbon audit that WYCA plans to conduct on the scheme later this year.

The objectives of the scheme stated in the document are first to increase road capacity but also “to support a more sustainable transport network and modal shift from private cars”. Sadly that ‘modal shift’ doesn’t get mentioned again and is not included as an outcome for monitoring. Only an increase in public transport and active travel (walking, cycling) are measured, not whether there is a shift away from cars. Nor is ‘model shift from private cars’ mentioned in the summary case for the scheme. Yet a minimum 21% shift away from car travel is necessary to achieve WYCA’s target of net zero carbon by 2038, a target that many say is not ambitious enough.

The Bradford-Shipley road scheme was conceived a decade ago to support new housing and employment in the Canal Road / Valley Road area. We do need people-centred jobs and housing, that don’t require more cars on the road.  It means implementing the Council’s policies in favour of a shift to other forms of transport, and to reduce car traffic as part of avoiding climate catastrophe. It means providing car-share schemes and public transport along the valley and insisting on housing with low car density, not only in the valley but across the District.

Taking a Deep Breath: event links and comment

On 10th June 2021 Professor Rosie McEachan, director of Born in Bradford, was the main contributor to ‘Taking a Deep Breath’, describing the impact of traffic pollution on health, and Born in Bradford’s work to evaluate the Clean Air Zone. Please have a look at the event introduction, short film and Rosie’s presentation here (altogether 54 minutes), the written summary of the questions, answers and discussion here, and Rosie’s slides here.

This post introduces the presentation by a very brief overview, and lists some limitations of the Clean Air Zone observed during the discussion.

Rosie described the impact of air pollution, now mainly from traffic emissions, on health. A quarter of Bradford’s childhood asthma has been attributed to poor air quality.  Air quality is also implicated in cancer, stroke, children born with low birthweight and a whole host of other health outcomes. The poorest areas are the worst affected. The aim of the Council’s government-funded Clean Air Plan and Zone is to bring air quality within legal limits across the District. The Zone covers all Bradford within the ring road, and the valley up to and including Shipley. It is due to start early in 2022.

Born in Bradford’s role is to provide an independent evaluation of how air quality changes with the introduction of the Clean Air Zone. They will use not only their own work but also health data for all Bradford residents, air quality monitoring from Council sensors already in place and from pupils in 12 schools inside and outside the Clean Air Zone, who will wear sensors on their journey between home and school. A survey on the attitudes and behaviour of Bradford residents to air quality is already providing contextual information.

All those involved would be delighted if the Clean Air Plan and Zone improve air quality not only for Nitrogen Dioxide which is currently above legal limits in some areas, but also for other emissions and particulate matter. The evaluation will show whether this is the case, and its results will indicate best practice for other cities’ implementation of Clean Air Zones.

As Anna Watson, Shipley Town Councillor and facilitator of the event stressed, Bradford is privileged to have the scientific expertise and experience to allow this evaluation by the Bradford Institute for Health Research and Born in Bradford.

Some questions were raised about other developments such as the Bradford-Shipley road scheme’s  increase in traffic, and the dangers that would remain even if air quality were within legal limits. These questions are summarised here, without reducing the positive contribution of the evaluation from Born in Bradford which had event participants’ fulsome support.

  • The Clean Air Zone is dictated by government funding which is limited to be the least stringent regulation that will bring the District’s pollution levels with UK legal limits on nitrogen dioxide. It is not aimed at bringing air quality to a considerably better level than the dirtiness which is inside the law. Policies aimed at climate survival or healthy clean air, need further actions.
  • The CAZ funding does not give car owners support to change their vehicles to cleaner engines, or to leave their car at home. Inequality of access to non-polluting transport is not addressed, because people on low incomes can less afford it. Funding to allow the poorest to have cleaner cars and use different modes of transport would be a major contribution to cleaner air that is not within this government clean air policy.
  • Monitoring the CAZ will monitor the overall impact of the CAZ and all other interventions that happen at the same time. It is not a tightly controlled experiment where nothing else is changing at the same time. These changes may include the disruption of building a new Bradford-Shipley traffic route, bus improvements, and other changes. To the extent that statistical modelling cannot disentangle the impact of different interventions, the relevance of the results for other places will be weakened.

Taking a deep breath: June 10th 7:30pm

Professor Rosie McEachan of the Bradford Institute for Health Research, will be speaking about Air quality, health and Born in Bradford’s plans to evaluate the Bradford Clean Air Plan. It will be a chance to ask questions and join discussion, and all are welcome. Rosie is an applied health researcher, and director of the Born in Bradford study which follows the lives of over 50,000 Bradford residents to explore why some families stay healthy and why others fall ill.

Register for the meeting here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/taking-a-deep-breath-tickets-152426051423. The meeting will be on Zoom.

Please advertise widely and come to this discussion which will be supported by other clean air scientists, and the campaigning group Clean Air Bradford. Organised by the Bradford-Shipley Travel Alliance, concerned about health and climate impact of traffic schemes between Bradford and Shipley.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/taking-a-deep-breath-tickets-152426051423

Is anyone there? Just what are the scheme’s aims…

No-one has been willing to state the aims of this Bradford-Shipley road scheme. Our last newsletter pointed out the contradiction between its original justification – to increase traffic as a means of stimulating economic growth – and the current aims of West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) to reduce traffic to avert climate catastrophe. Each scheme document states a different set of aims.

As promised, we wrote to Bradford Council on 8th March to ask for the scheme’s Benefits Realisation Plan, which all WYCA schemes must have. This would lay out the scheme aims, and how they will be ensured.

Not receiving an acknowledgement or a reply during March, we approached the Councillor responsible for the scheme, Alex Ross-Shaw, who followed it up and assured us that a response would be forthcoming “in due course”.

As of 24th April, there still is no reply.

We also asked for the assumptions being made for scenarios of future traffic. The scenarios, or forecasts, will be core evidence to judge the scheme’s impact on our health. We would like to engage with the Council in a helpful collaborative manner to get the best scheme possible.

No answer to that one, either.

We will knock on the door again in every way we can think of, you can be sure.

CERPs – an acronym to remember

There are many welcome promises to take climate change seriously, and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 in Leeds and many other Councils, or by 2038 in Bradford, West Yorkshire and many others, or by 2050 for the UK government.

But rare are the plans that work backwards from a target like those, to lay out just what needs to be done to reach it in the time available.

All credit to West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) for their report last July, Carbon Emission Reductions Pathways, or CERPs for short.

It explored three pathways, none of which would reach the net zero carbon target of 2038 entirely. Each would leave between 18% and 27% of further reductions that required “a combination of specific, ambitious measures and innovative new technologies as they become available”.

The minimum requirements of the least ambitious pathway include a 21% reduction in car miles travelled. The most ambitious pathway reckons on a 37% reduction in car miles travelled. Both also assume a hefty shift to electric-powered vehicles. All the pathways say that a shift from car to walking, cycling, bus and train is necessary. Necessary to avert what Bradford Council called ‘the enormous harm’ associated with global warming by 2 degrees centigrade, in its declaration of a climate emergency in 2019.

All the pathways demand retrofitting 700,000 houses with insulation, shifting to renewable energy sources, restoring peatland, planting 420 football pitches of trees, and reducing food waste by over one third.

The July 2020 report expected public consultation by December 2020, and WYCA urged further work on measuring carbon emissions. It is nearly a year later and there has not been further public information. But the work is ongoing and shows the scale of change necessary to avert human catastrophe in Bradford as elsewhere.

The CERPs report is essential guidance to all that is coming.