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?