Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Toxic traffic

Apart from the news that Bristol is one of the laziest places in the country, and the fact we seem to be overrun with snakes at the moment, this week has also seen the appearance of Bristol East's very own Old Market in Defra's Toxic Top Ten (OK, there are fifteen of them, but doesn't quite have the same ring) because of the level of traffic fumes. I suspect a bit of a cut and paste job from the Lib Dem spokesperson - insert 'Bristol Old Market' here or fourteen other locations as appropriate - but what caught my attention was the Friends of the Earth response.

Their solution seems to be (a) street closures, (b) 20mph speed limits in the city centre and (c) the exclusion of vehicles in some areas to tackle the problem. Well OK, if you closed Old Market and the Temple Way area to traffic you would certainly solve its pollution problem. It would mean complete gridlock for the rest of the city though, especially the M32 and A4 which are quite bad enough already.

A 20mph limit wouldn't make a blind bit of difference either, the average traffic speed in Bristol city centre being around the 16mph mark anyway. (And yes, I do support a 20mph limit in residential areas, such as the Dings Home Zone, which isn't a million miles from Old Market, but let's not pretend it's going to solve the congestion and pollution problems in the city centre. I also support street closures, maybe in some places just on a weekend, but in others full-scale pedestrianisation, but that's not the answer for Old Market).

So what is the solution? Firstly, it's got to be about getting more people out of their cars and onto public transport, or indeed, cycling/ walking. We have one of the Showcase Bus Routes running along Old Market now (funded from the £43 million Government money for the Greater Bristol Bus Network, which has to be pointed out to people every now and then). But the buses are still too expensive and Dawn Primarolo and I have written again to Sir Moir Lockhead of First Group only this week, to try to get an explanation of why fares continue to rise. Secondly, it's about less polluting vehicles. And thirdly it's about sensible traffic management. For example, at the Temple Way roundabout, why have the (numerous sets of) traffic lights running all through the night when there is little or no traffic around?

8 comments:

Paul N said...

Want to reduce traffic and pollution in Bristol ?

Here are a few suggestions:

a) urban light railway or trams using existing railway tracks.

b) move the bus lane on Hotwells Road to the other side of the road, so it makes journies into Bristol faster (people want to get to work on time,getting home on time not so important). Also the buses do not use the bus lane at the moment as the tree branches hang so low they hit the buses, and the council don't seem to prune them, and cars often park in the bus lane opposite the Mardyke pub.

c) reducing speed limits does increase capacity and therefore flow. Think about it,with higher speeds come greater braking distances so cars have to space out more,reducing capacity. It doesn't matter about average speeds, you want to prevent stop start driving and instead have continuous driving at a lower speed. Read up on queueing theory if you want to do the maths.

d) congestion charge. Come on,let's have one. Do we want to reduce inner-city pollution or not.

e) if you are going to clobber the car at rush hour let's have a park and ride and a cycle at the top of the M32.

f) finally exactly who in government is blocking my pet topic, the Portishead railway line. If the government was serious about the environment, quality of life, congestion, pollution, this would be a no brainer. It's scandalous that projects like this are ignored in preference to projects like the proposed high speed rail links designed to compete against local air travel. How many times do people drive to work as opposed to fly to work?

g) er that's it: -)

thebristolblogger said...

Most ludicrous bus fare yet:

£3.70 return from the Three Lamps to the city museum.

It's about a half hour walk, therefore less than two miles.

£7.40 for the two of us. Public transport in this city is just laughable.

Steven_L said...

Why don't you just read their annual report?

"Since September 2008,
the price of crude has decreased to approximately $52 per barrel
at 31 March 2009. This is the principal reason for the £539.6m of
adverse derivative hedging movements impacting the Group’s
consolidated statement of recognised income and expense in
the year, representing £393.8m of the movement."

"The net pension surplus of £89.0m at the start of the year has become
a pre-tax net deficit of £168.7m as of 31 March 2009."

Other than that they look like they are doing well. Revenues up, profits up, dividends up. I've added them to my watch list.

Bristol Dave said...

FINALLY, an MP that picks up on traffic lights at night!!!! The Europeans had this licked YEARS ago, where after a certain time, the middle orange light on all lights at the junctions flashes constantly, which means to anyone approaching the junction "proceed with caution"

It's a brilliant, brilliant idea. How do we get it introduced here? Put it on your To Do list please, Kerry.

In response to Paul N's comments:

a) Yes
b) Yes, agreed
c) Absolute rubbish - the fact there is congestion is because there is just a lot of traffic wanting to use the road. As Kerry pointed out, in rush hour you haven't got a hope of reaching a speed anywhere near 30 mph, so braking distances don't come into it. At any time that you CAN do 30 mph (with the increased braking distances that comes with it), there obviously isn't any congestion!
d) No, no no no no. A congestion charge won't reduce inner-city pollution, it will just make people resent the local/national government even more, as they are still forced to drive in to the centre as the other transport options are so poor.
e) Yes
f) Yes

dreamingspire said...

Starting at the bottom, last month £25M was allocated for GRIP on the Portishead line - GRIP is the acronym for the planning and design process, and its running quite well on this project, thank you. What isn't under way, and ought to be, is planning the resignalling and track layout improvements at both ends of TM station.
Second, the revised road layout around and near the Cabot Circus development works very well, because a proper traffic management system has been installed. As for most of the rest of Bristol, the Evening Post was so right when it blamed the traffic lights for holding up the traffic: years and years of installing inadequate systems and not managing them properly.
DfT is now running very late on publishing its consultation on a strategy for ticketing on public transport - Kerry, can you ask a Minister why, please? (Latest I have is that it has slipped 3 weeks in 4 weeks.)

dreamingspire said...

At risk of getting boring, today's Evening Post says that Bristol City has been having trouble filling the transport top officer post, after the previous incumbent left in May. But, after increasing the salary on offer, it is said that there are a good number of applicants. I hope that the new employee understands traffic lights.

Bristol Dave said...

dreamingspire: The last transport officer understood traffic lights, but just from the point of view of creating congestion in order to garner public and media support for a congestion charge.

Didn't work though.

Pointer2null said...

More importantly, what was it government policy until only recently to arrange the sequence of the traffic lights to ACTUALLY HOLD UP THE TRAFFIC TO MAKE US WASTE FUEL SO THEY COULD GET MORE TAX???

You'll never get people on the bus till you stop the monopoly by worst group and get someone who can run a cost effective and reliable service