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

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