When deciding on the future of our city’s streets, it’s tempting to rely on what we’ve seen and heard on the street and on social media. But we can’t plan transport policy on the basis of anecdote. We need to trust the experts.
After all, you wouldn’t want a heart surgeon fixing a burst pipe or a plumber performing heart surgery.
We have many transport experts in Brighton and Hove. Some work for the council in non-political roles, some work for independent organisations. The UK government is also full of transport experts.
All these people will tell you that building more roads attracts more cars, and that where road and parking capacity are reduced and an attractive alternative is provided, car use decreases.
They will also tell you – as has our government – that the main reason UK cycling rates are low is that people don’t feel safe in traffic.
This leads us to the catch-22. The majority drive, and many people feel uneasy about losing road space to make cycling safer, so they say they want things to stay as they are. So traffic increases, people feel even less safe and drive even more.
The way to break this catch-22 is to trust the experts. Every city that’s pleasant to walk and cycle around now – including Amsterdam, Copenhagen and parts of London – was once traffic-choked and had to go through what we’re experiencing now.
Change was proposed, there was a bitter backlash, including death threats to politicians, but the politicians stood firm.
The result, in every case, has been overwhelming support for the changes made.
Our council is strapped for cash. We’ve been given money by central government to spend on cycling and walking, which we can’t use for other things.
We can either trust the experts and use this money to improve the city or stick our heads in the sand.
We need change, urgently. Our city has been congested and polluted for many years, and buses have got slower as traffic has increased.
Our air, in places, is filthy. Children can’t play in the streets and many grow up obese and with breathing difficulties.
Climate change is real and the city has pledged to reach net zero by 2030.
Let’s break this catch-22. Write to your councillors and MP, asking for positive change, based on science, not anecdote.
Chris Williams chairs Bricycles – the Brighton and Hove Cycling Campaign.