Last Tuesday, Bradford Council decided not to call on the West Yorkshire Pension Fund, which it administers, to withdraw at the earliest opportunity from its 500m investments in fossil fuel companies. It decided not to follow Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield Councils in seeking an early divestment. Bradford Council leader Susan Hinchcliffe declared that councillors should not think they can take financial decisions on the Fund’s behalf, though only a review of how to divest had been called for. Instead the Council decided to urge the fund to “wind down” holdings in fossil fuels and make a commitment “to significant progress towards net-zero by 2030.” That is not even calling for divestment.
The report by the Telegraph and Argus focuses on Extinction Rebellion’s support for divestment from fossil fuels, but they would probably be the first to highlight the work by Fossil Free West Yorkshire and the lobbying of councillors at City Hall last week of Friends of the Earth, Global Justice, Unite the Union, BSTA, and others.
Bradford’s air quality improved markedly during the lockdown but is back up to illegal values again (40mg/m3 of NO2). The Centre for Cities report uses DEFRA figures, showing this pattern of badly bouncing back for most cities in Britain. Bradford has the worst nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels of the 49 cities studied, both before and after COVID.
NO2 is a major polluter from petrol-driven traffic, and gaining legal levelsis the aim of the Clean Air Zone starting next year. The health professionals of Born in Bradford point out that legal levels are not safe, and that particulate matter from brakes stays in lungs and blood is another killer pollutant of traffic, whether petrol or electric-driven. BSTA would like to see the Clean Air Zone insistence on ‘clean’ engines extended to all traffic, with support for those can’t afford the upgrades.
In another recent report air pollution is shown to be associated with higher risk of catching COVID. Air quality really must be improved way better than simply the illegal limits.
TAN keeps us up to date with national news and other local campaigns, and their own challenges to continued road-building. TAN director Chris Todd led us in our July strategy meeting, and continues to advise us. Here are two pieces from recent TAN newsletters which report on national figures who talk the talk.
Lord Deben, chair of the Climate Change Committee (CCC) at a Greener Transport Solutions webinar said that: “the government must be congratulated on its targets and attacked on the basis it has not delivered on the mechanisms for delivering those targets”. He also went further saying that: “we’ve also got to ask ourselves a very big question about the road building programme. There is a very great deal of money there which should be used in other ways.” This is the first time that the CCC has been so explicit in its criticism of RIS2 [the government road programme] and roadbuilding in general.
Grant Shapps acknowledges in his Transport Decarbonisation Plan that “we cannot, of course, simply rely on the electrification of road transport, or believe that zero emission cars and lorries will solve all our problems”. It is something the Government has started to address in urban areas where it wants to see half of all journeys made by walking and cycling and for more people to travel by bus.
BSTA has begun to meet physically and all readers of the newsletter are very welcome at out next meetings on Wednesday November 3rd, and Thursday December 2nd, both at 7pm in the Tambourine café at the top of Saltaire, 38 Bingley Rd, Shipley BD18 4RU.
We have a constitution and a committee: Anna Watson (Chair), Jenny Stein (Treasurer), Ludi Simpson (Secretary), Tony Plumbe, Gordon Roscoe, Bryan Groom. We are applying for grants to help increase the impact of our actions. We are working with Shipley Town Council on a major event in the new year to highlight the gains in air quality and lowered pollution to be gained from a review of transport plans. We continue to speak to businesses, residents and schools.
We are looking to bring much greater public understanding, and to influence the politicians who make decisions, not just in Shipley but along the Aire Valley route of the road, and across Bradford and West Yorkshire Councillors.
Following three meetings to discuss ‘How would you spend £48m if not on widening roads?’, BSTA has sent details of alternatives to Bradford Council, for them to consider in what we understand to be an imminent reappraisal of the scheme.
It is relatively cheap to put in a clean air zone as planned next year for commercial vehicles in the Aire Valley to Shipley which is Bradford’s worst-hit pollution sink. Why not extend it to all cars, and give the grants that allow families to convert to cleaner engines? Why not do it hand-in-hand with all the measures that help people to avoid using cars for shorter trips: co-ordinated cycle routes with priority and places to keep bikes safe. Safe and well-maintained routes to walk to schools and shops.
Through-traffic of heavy lorries contributes a lot of Bradford’s pollution. Weight restrictions would keep heavy loads on the M62 instead of cutting through Bradford to get to the North West. At the same time, a rail freight terminal in the Shipley area could link up with ‘last mile’ van delivery of parcels and shopping.
Park and ride schemes are well-tried and would suit the Aire Valley with rapid bus and train routes into Bradford. They would work well with deterring long-stay parking in the city. It would make such a difference if West Yorkshire buses were much cheaper.
The full list of our alternatives is here. Please comment on your own priorities.
Bradford Council has funded an online platform for residents to suggest and comment on initiatives to reduce carbon emissions in the District. It is only available until the end of November, so use it now. There will be a workshop with Councillors and businesses to discuss the suggestions.
Registration is straightforward, and on logging in you are able to
Click on an initiative already proposed, and then support it, express an interest, make a comment or propose an alternative.
Click on an issue (eg. Transport), see the existing issues and initiatives proposed, or propose a new issue and an initiative that would address it.
The process is rapid – progressing through discussion of initiatives for a fortnight, and then voting for them. So if you have some space to contribute and agree or disagree with initiatives, get going now!
It is a system that has been used in Germany and elsewhere to asses support for initiatives and the reasons for support or opposition. Use it to express your views and be heard.
Of course there is no commitment to take any of these suggestions on board, but it is a means of recording your views, and those views being independently recorded by the University of Leeds. Your comments are anonymous – your details are only used for registration, and you can choose a nickname for your comments.
It is useful to look both ways before crossing a road. But if you see traffic coming from two directions you may feel stuck. That seems to be the case in the reported words from West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin, whose office rejected pleas for a review of road-widening, saying “not all the road schemes would increase carbon emissions, adding that some included new cycle and walking facilities”.
Below we reproduce the letter that BSTA sent to Tracy Brabin yesterday. Her Office promises a reply within 15 working days.
8th September 2021
Dear Mayor Tracy Brabin
Congratulations on your election as Mayor, and on your and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s commitment to reduce traffic pollution to meet its net-zero carbon target. The Combined Authority ‘Carbon Emissions Reduction Pathways’ report in June 2020 highlights the need to treat greenhouse gas emissions as a budget that must reduce each year, and its carbon audits of road schemes will help to decide how to do this.
Time is not elastic in this matter. To put in no starker terms than the world’s scientists, immediate measures are needed for deep reductions in carbon emissions.
I was surprised to read then, that “Ms Brabin’s office told the Local Democracy Reporting Service … that not all the road schemes would increase carbon emissions, adding that some included new cycle and walking facilities.” Bradford T&A 5/9/2021
The Bradford-Shipley Travel Alliance brings together those concerned on health and climate grounds about WYCA’s proposed increase in traffic capacity of the route between Bradford and Shipley. The Alliance’s members now include over 200 individuals, and the local organisations of your own Labour Party as well as the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party. It includes Shipley Town Council, local environmental and community associations and many businesses.
The road scheme is part of the West Yorkshire Plus Transport Fund and devised in its current form in 2012. It envisages new cycle and walking facilities. But its main expenditure and aim of widening roads and increasing traffic capacity speaks to an age when increased traffic capacity was the main measure of success in economic prosperity. That perspective is no longer valid.
WYCA’s Carbon Emissions Reduction Pathways report investigates three scenarios to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2038. These differ according to how much is left to hoped-for but unknown solutions. Even the most optimistic of the three scenarios requires not only a large shift towards electric vehicles but a 21% reduction in car traffic. A major reduction in traffic capacity.
The final public consultation on the Bradford-Shipley Route Improvement Scheme is due early in 2022. All our members and member organisations have agreed to ask you not to proceed without evidence that shows how the intended benefits of the scheme will be guaranteed, and that these benefits must include reduced traffic and a switch from car to other forms of collective and healthy travel. The health of our children and adults is affected not only by the catastrophe if global warming is not stemmed quickly, but by the particulate and other emissions of traffic.
If the reporting is accurate, your office’s suggestion that new cycle and walking facilities are enough to meet the Combined Authority’s carbon emissions commitments should be withdrawn. Instead an auditing and review of all travel, as part of the carbon emissions reduction research, must be undertaken before this road scheme is developed further.
The Bradford-Shipley Travel Alliance is developing alternative uses of the £48m committed to the Bradford-Shipley scheme, uses which would reduce traffic flows and emissions and therefore improve the travel of all types, including by car.
We would appreciate meeting you in order to explore these options with you.
Are you concerned about children’s health and traffic pollution? Take global warming seriously? Want fewer cars on the roads, not more? What would you spend £48m on?
West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Bradford Council want to spend £48m on widening Valley Road, pumping more traffic into Shipley and beyond, and surely attracting more through-traffic and more rat-running.
Bradford-Shipley Travel Alliance is going public on Tuesday 7th September, meeting in the Shipley Kirkgate Centre BD18 3EH at 7.30pm. We’ll review the merits of alternative proposals for what the money could be spent on, and what actions to take to make healthier travel happen between Bradford and Shipley.
You will be very welcome. There will be an online link for those who can’t make it in person: email email@example.com for an invitation (we can’t guarantee the quality of the link though we will do our best).
The Transport Decarbonisation Puzzle. Comment by Glenn Lyons on the government’s July 2021 Transport Decarbonisation Plan.
From the Transport Action Network’s newsletter: The Government has committed to cutting carbon emissions by 78% by 2035, including international aviation and shipping, while failing to actually show how it will deliver such a radical target. This has led some to predict that there could be many more legal challenges over transport investment decisions.
Further links to government Transport Policy and decarbonisation, and commentary, here.