OPINION

Car-free living should be standard – not luxury

Posted On 18 Nov 2020 at 3:42 pm

A massive £2.4 million of government money has been awarded to Brighton and Hove to make walking and cycling easier and safer.

According to a recent YouGov poll, many Brits intend to use their car more after the pandemic than before, so it’s more important than ever that people have alternative ways to get around.

“We look like a nation of car addicts,” said Katy Rodda, of Brighton Active Travel, a newly formed group of residents who want safer roads for walking and cycling.

“But surveys show that people are desperate for options. Thousands of people who thought they’d never cycle again are finding freedom on e-bikes or have rediscovered the joy of walking.

“Despite the government giving money to councils to create safe space for cycling and walking, some have removed cycling and walking spaces, leaving everyone with the same old car dependency problem – gridlock, air pollution, noise and danger.

“We’re lucky in Brighton and Hove to have received so much government money, as studies show that investment in cycling and walking far outperforms investment in road-building and improves mental and physical health.”

Samantha Martin, 38, lives in Fishersgate with her mum and her sons Bayley and Romeo.

She said: “I’ve just started a cleaning job in Brighton but can’t afford a car and don’t want to risk the bus because my mum’s vulnerable so I’ve started cycling.

“I love it. It gives me exercise and freedom and the direct route only takes 20 minutes. I can get most of the way on cycle lanes but the roads around Portslade are so scary I have to go the long way round, adding at least 10 minutes to my journey.”

Samantha’s situation is not unique. Forty per cent of Brighton households don’t have a car and many more have just one car, leaving half the family stranded.

Fortunately for Samantha, some of the money that the city has been awarded will go into making Portslade safer for cycling.

“In most places there’s never been any real alternative to driving,” said Katy, “so naturally people see cycle lanes as space being taken away.

“Because of poor transport planning over the years, many people have ended up saddled with the huge costs of owning, insuring, parking, maintaining and fuelling their car and see car-free living as a luxury for those who can afford homes in the city centre.

Lena and Bradley in Madeira Drive in Brighton

“By making sure that everyone has safe walking and cycling routes between schools, homes, shops and workplaces, we can give people more choice.

“Our city has 45,000 parking spaces, occupying an area equivalent to four Preston Parks.

“If we reduced the need for driving and parking, imagine what we could do with the space – children’s play areas, street trees, outdoor seating, public toilets.

“Is the status quo really the best we can do?

“Portslade has been failed by transport policy, with homes and shops torn down to make way for roads.

“Thousands live within walking distance of the shops in Boundary Road but because crossing the roads is so dangerous and stressful, people end up driving to out-of-town stores.

“We know from elsewhere in the UK that making walking and cycling easier boosts local economies and communities.

Lottie and Jill Robinson

“Drivers, cyclists and walkers are not different people. During the spring lockdown, people of all ages cycled because they felt comfortable.

“This isn’t about pandering to a small group of hardcore cyclists. It’s making a whole city comfortable for people of all ages to walk or cycle to school, work, the shops.

“Where cycling and walking is made safer, there’s a drop in car use, leaving roads clearer for essential journeys. This is tried and tested in London, Bristol, Cambridge and elsewhere.

“As individuals, we’re all feeling powerless, sitting in our cars in traffic jams, on bikes in scary traffic or waiting for the pedestrian lights to change. If we move together, we can achieve real change.”

Max Glaskin is a member of Brighton Active Travel.

  1. Greens Out Reply

    I live in Hanover.

    The area I cover for my work goes from Eastbourne to Littlehampton and up to the M25.

    It includes rural areas with absolutely zero public transport.

    How can I not need, note NEED, a vehicle?

    I also cycle when it’s do-able.

    • Peter Stubbs Reply

      This article is all about how the last 70 years of transport policy has pushed people into needing vehicles and finding solutions to that predicament.

      Solutions include: better public transport. Using cars less where there’s an alternative. Planning new housing so it’s not miles away from transport links and facilities.

      There always be areas where cars will remain the only realistic option – such as rural areas with zero public transport.

  2. Derek Wright Reply

    Dear Greens out , its more about the short journeys not the long ones. More people walking and cycling on the short journey leaves more space for those that have no choice like you . Just use your car for commuting and take up active travel for short local trips. Cuts pollution and keeps you fit

  3. Greg Middleton Reply

    AARGGH, CYCLISTS!! THEY’RE EVIL!!!! YOU CAN’T CARRY A WASHING MACHINE ON A BICYCLE!!!!!

    etc etc etc

  4. Billy Reply

    Here we go again with more lobbying.
    It’s really sad that an important discussion is divided in two, along these sectarian lines.

    Nowadays we’re expected to take sides, either being in the car lobby or in the cyclists’ let’s-save-the-planet one. So the discussion seems to be about cycle lanes when it should really be about the city’s transport infrastructure, and about best use of available space.

    The facts are that we live in a vibrant but cramped over-populated city – where there is very little public transport beyond an expensive privatised bus service. This public transport does not get most people to work efficiently and so of course some have to resort to cars, taxis or shared minibuses. Those of us who also drive vans for work and to service the homes and businesses in the city also need to use roads.
    If you look at the map, there is the A27 city bypass to the north of us, and then there are two remaining cross-city routes, the A270 and the seafront A259.
    The idea that sacrificing these roads will suddenly get all of us on bikes as a means to commute to work is farcical. The idea that a major city can operate without cross-city transport arteries is also a joke.
    The third idea that we’ll suddenly all take up cycling for leisure purposes is equally mad, because the minute the weather turns cloudy, wet, or cold the majority of bikes disappear.

    As it happens, I drive for work, but I also cycle year round. The mess made by the recent cycle lanes is there for all to see. The Old Shoreham road cycle lane is hardly used. The seafront cycle lane duplicates the existing one unnecessarily and has displaced parked cars and created an endless traffic jam along the front.
    The extra cycle lane remains largely empty and It is now far more difficult for pedestrians to cross the road as a result of this chaos.
    The self inflicted chaos continues along Madeira Drive with a traffic planning fudge that beggars belief.

    There needs to be better joined up thinking here. It’s one thing to have a strategy to get people to exercise more and to try and reduce pollution from cars. But we still need a city transport infrastructure where people can go about their business and leisure without the extra hold ups that have been created by bad planning based on ideological dogma.
    The council is busy wasting money which will sooner or later be added to our taxes, and there is no benefit for the cyclist, the pedestrians, or for the other road users, including commuters and bus services.

    • Billy Reply

      The article talks about a variety of modes of transport. It will always be possible to drive cars. At the moment, many people want to cycle but can’t because the roads are dominated by motor vehicles. The laws of physics dictate who will come off worse in the event of a collision, so people make their choice based on how safe they feel.

      Cycling has increased hugely on the OSR because of the pop-up lanes. Before they were there, it was impossible for anyone except daredevils.

      The existing seafront cycle lanes crammed two lanes of people into 1.5m, and given that they’re on a pavement, this makes them dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists alike. Given that there are over 45,000 parking spaces remaining in town, the loss of 60 parking spaces represents a drop in parking capacity of 0.13%

      In places where it’s safe to cycle, people cycle for transport and exercise all year round, just as they walk for transport and exercise all year round.

      People need transport choices. At the moment, cycling and walking is simply not a choice for many as it’s dangerous and unattractive.

      • Billy Reply

        I’m now wondering why someone else have been allowed to use my username on this site, so that it looks like I’m contradicting myself.

        The old Shoreham road cycle lane never has anyone cycling in it when I’m up there. Weird.

        I actually love cycle lanes as I use them myself, but I see no point in having them in the wrong place, or wasting road space with duplication like we have on the seafront.
        A proper cycle lane is not one randomly placed on the cheap with a few road marking and awkward ugly bollards.
        The lack of planning also shows at all the crossing junctions.

      • Greens Out Reply

        @Billy

        It will always be possible to drive cars.

        Not with this bunch of lunatics at the helm.

  5. Nick Reply

    This is more fuel to the fire in the car vs bike war. It doesn’t have to be a war. Many of us both drive and cycle. But the cycling zealots are actually doing their own case harm by attacking cars/roads. Both methods can and should exist.

    Also some of the claims are fanciful. “If we reduced the need for driving and parking, imagine what we could do with the space – children’s play areas, street trees, outdoor seating, public toilets” Really, more toilets? There’s plenty of space for them already and many have been closed. The issue here is money. Already the council has lost tens of millions in motorist revenue – without this so many things won’t be there. Including all the existing toilets!

    I want a cycle network. I want to be able to drive further afield. I want less pollution. Let’s have a sensible debate rather than this fanciful turn the streets into playgrounds nonsense.

    And be aware that if many people do give up their cars then the council resident parking revenue will fall. Currently this and other parking generates over £20m – which is then spent on bus passes for retired people and transport work. If this profit goes, then this spending will have to come from other council budgets and discretionary spend areas, such as libraries etc will all have to close to fill the tens of millions revenue hole.

    • Peter Challice Reply

      If the council switched its revenue stream from parking fees to speeding fines, it would have enough for ten new libraries and a first-class tram network in next to no time.

    • Mandy Willets Reply

      I really don’t see the car vs bike war. Transport policy has done a massive disservice to us all by forcing many of us into car ownership with no alternative. I’d love to be able to ditch my car, get healthy and stop poisoning the air my kids breathe. I feel really guilty about driving but the reality is that where I live there’s no real option.

      I’ve been on Facebook and NextDoor saying stuff like this and have been attacked for being an eco-zealot. Where’s the logic in that?

  6. Mark Strong Reply

    Answering the first comment, I also sometimes need to visit rural areas for work. When I do, I use a car. But if it’s a local trip then walking or cycling (or in normal times a bus) is often easier (& indeed quicker), & if I’m going to another city, I use a train. Nobody is saying *never drive*!

    But with 2/3 of car trips *in towns & cities* under 5 miles, there are a lot of trips by car that could be by foot/cycle/bus without affecting your quality of life – leaving more space for people & services that really *do* need the roads.

    • Nick Reply

      But are 2/3 of car trips in B&H under 5 miles? Yes, they are across the world but locally it is very difficult and expensive to do this as you cross zones. So are the existing financial penalties of having to pay to park at the destination, plus the time taken, already putting people off? I’ve seen no local evidence

      I haven’t used my car to drive into the city for years. Bus or bike is much easier and cheaper. But I do use my car to travel out of the city and also, more recently, to walk my dogs in places around the city (I used to walk but they have nearly been hit by bikes and an e-scooter illegally on pavement so drive to some outer parks for their safety. Hopefully, more enforcement so that we can be safe to walk on pavements again)

  7. Nick Reply

    councils don’t get any money from speeding fines. So not really an option!

  8. Ben J Reply

    Where are these local jobs that don’t require travel by car, in over 25 years of working I’ve NEVER had a job that was less than 15 miles from where I lived, with the longest being travelling to Bracknell (142 miles round trip a day, 5 days a week) in Berkshire and having to arrive by 8:15am which took about 1hr 20 mins each way (2hrs 15 by train each way) and was MUCH cheaper by car!

    Public transport just doesn’t work if you are going anywhere but the major destinations which are well served, and are hideously expensive compared to travel by car, I know, I’ve done it for 26 years now.

    Yes, by all means enjoy and promote cycling, but for a large percentage of people it’s not practical, electric cars are on their way, I suppose that’ll give cyclists something new to moan about.

  9. Nathan Adler Reply

    Cycling and walking needs to be encouraged for shorter journeys and those that do not require the car for larger transportation. This all needs to both joined up so that you encourage active travel BUT do not engineer congestion and pollution, (such as witnessed along the OSR cycle lane). It’s also really discouraging that expensive e bikes are mentioned but the far more affordable, (and storable), e scooters are being totally ignored by Brighton. The rest of Europe have embraced them and they are a real alternative for some, less mobile and less wealthy members of the community. ALL options should be offered in order to reduce car journeys.

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