Webinar – How local transport decisions can help during a national crisis
Video (without Chris Boardman’s speech)
Key quotes and notes
Chris Boardman, British Cycling Policy Adviser said:
“Social justice is a strong reason for change, it helps politicians make tough and sometimes unpopular decisions, and it also helps the public understand and tolerate changes that might inconvenience them.”
“In the UK around a quarter of all households don’t have access to a car, so they are reliant on public transport. On a standard day in Greater Manchester there are 300,000 trips on public transport of three miles or less, and for the next few months at least, those public transport options will be limited to less than 20% of usual occupancy. That means every day 240,000 people will not be able to travel in this way if they are to comply with social distancing guidelines.”
“We’d need to find 12,000 extra buses to accommodate them, which is clearly impossible, so 240,000 people – many without access to a car – must find an alternative or simply not travel to work, schools or the shops.”
“Right now, this isn’t about pollution, congestion, inactivity, or cost – the usual arguments for investment in cycling. It’s about social justice, social inclusion, and making sure that those who don’t have a car have a safe travel choice.”
Councillor Claire Holland, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Lead for Sustainable Transport, Environment and Clean Air at Lambeth Council, said:
“Nearly 70% of residents in Lambeth live in flats, a third of children are growing up in poverty and the majority of households do not own or have access to a car. If you put all of this together, for us in Lambeth this was an equalities issue, and this is fundamentally for me about social justice. For us, a car-led recovery is not an option.”
“What we are doing in Lambeth is in addition to pavement widening, we’re looking at upgrading strategic healthy routes to link town centre to town centre and then up into the centre of London.”
“It’s about addressing inequalities and it’s about protecting and promoting public health and supporting our local economy. Because I think a green recovery is not a choice and it is the only option for us on the table. We can’t go back to how we used to do things, we have to change.”
“It’s not about pitching against each other, we need more funding and investment in London. We feel actually, we have had a good deal. I want a good deal for Birmingham. I want a good deal for Oxfordshire. I want a good deal for London. So we need that funding and we need that backing.”
Councillor Waseem Zaffar MBE, Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment at Birmingham City Council, said:
“If we are going to reverse health inequalities in our city, and I represent the Lozells ward which has the lowest male life expectancy in the city, we have to make bold and brave decisions. I’ve nominated my own ward for low-traffic neighborhood, and while that might upset people you come into politics to change lives, not to be popular. It might mean that in a few years I’m not the Councillor for Lozells, but for me it’s about changing lives and reversing those health inequalities.”
“We’ve got the biggest air pollution problem outside London, we’ll be introducing a clean air zone in the very, very near future. It’s been delayed because of COVID, but we hope to launch in early 2021.”
“We’ve been allocated a million pounds and we’ve topped that up to £1.6 million to pull together 14 projects we can deliver by the end of July. So this is the tranche one project and within that we’ve got seven pop up cycle lanes running 15 kilometres, going out various directions from the city centre, that’s building on the segregated cycle lanes, which we launched a year ago.”
Councillor Suzanne Bartington, from Oxfordshire County Council, said:
“This is an unprecedented opportunity, and I really don’t think we will see this again, certainly in my lifetime, for a pivotal change in active travel. We are now moving into a recovery phase and it’s absolutely critical that all of our messaging around this acknowledges that this is a necessary change.”
“Oxford City, which has really got a culture of cycling and is second highest to Cambridge in the country. And then we have a whole set of market towns where cycling to work is around 2 to 4%, much lower in terms of uptake.”
“We really want to get consistent signage across our network because I think it’s very frustrating, particularly for anyone who’s new out on their bike trying to find their way, particularly if they are key workers who are going to our major hospital sites”
“We’re still discussing suspension of parking, which we know is going to bring challenges, particularly in this area but this is the time to act. I think it is an absolutely key opportunity that we need to take.”
- A YouGov survey recently published showed that “Four in five residents (81%) in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Glasgow are in favour of measures to reduce car emissions and use, with fewer than 1 in 10 (8%) rejecting action. A similarly high level of support is observed across all the cities, between men and women, and among different age and income groups.”
- Rapid Cycleway Prioritisation Tool is an evidence-base website to help local authorities prioritise their active travel recovery schemes, created for DfT by Leeds University.
- Widen My Path is crowd-sourced feedback which includes a page for every local authority.
- Sustrans and Cycling UK both have updated maps of current temporary cycling and walking schemes.
Transcript (by machine, so apologies for any errors)
Chris Boardman We all know that using bikes to get around is a good thing. We know it drops pollution, improves health, it’s cheap, it’s space efficient, it’s quiet, it enhances our society like no other form of transport bar walking. But in my opinion, right now, none of those things should be front and centre. Creating emergency transport provision, will, as a spin-off, create an environment where these things can come to fruition. But talking about future advantages right now, may spark irritation, anger and accusations of using a crisis for a land-grab. Particularly if people are sat in a traffic jam looking over at an empty, coned-off lane.
So my strong advise is focus on the crisis. This is the common ground we all share. It’s ‘our’ problem. It might sound like semantics, but right now, comms is more important than it will ever be. People will change behaviour to help, and tolerate inconvenience but only if they see an action as helping with something they care, or are worried about. This is the approach I’m trying to foster for Greater Manchester and I hope some of these thoughts might be helpful to you and your situation.
Social justice is a strong reason for change, it helps politicians make tough and sometimes unpopular decisions and it also makes those decisions more tolerable for the public:In Greater Manchester one third of households do not have access to a car, (I believe the average for the rest of the UK is about 1/4) so they are reliant on public transport. On a standard day, there are 300,000 trips on public transport of 3 miles or less. For the next few months at least, public transport will be limited to about 20% occupancy. that means, every day 240,000 people will not be able to travel in this way if they’re to comply with distancing guidelines. To provide for them, we’d need to find 12,000 extra buses, which is clearly impossible. So 240,000 people, many without access to a car, must find a transport alternative or not travel to work, schools or shops.
3 miles would be 50min walk, longer with kids or shopping. Too long to do twice a day for most. But at a very leisurely ‘non cyclist’ pace, it’d be a 15-20mins ride. Right now, it is not about all that good future-stuff, it’s about social justice, social inclusion, to make sure people who don’t have a car, have a safe travel choice. Because we know from experience that if people don’t feel safe, they simply won’t ride, and we now have fresh, country-wide evidence, that if they do feel safe, they will and in their droves. With 1950 levels of traffic, and whilst all other modes dropped 60-95% cycling increased everywhere, in some cases by as much as 300% on pre-lockdown levels. Yes there were other factors: key workers, needed to get to work without relying on a reduced public transport, we had unprecedented good weather, and people were just bored. But in our haste to find reasons why these stats don’t matter, the fact remains, people still chose to ride on-mass.
Even with a government requirement in place, the fear of changing the status quo remains, rationals like the afore mentioned, for not allocating road space are being constructed. Simply because of the fear of the unknown. Officers, councillors and politicians are very wary of reallocating road space, it’s at the heart of our current dilemma. And we shouldn’t dismiss those fears or try to prove them wrong; You can’t tell someone how to feel, and we can’t prove those fears are unfounded either. But we can give people the means to deal with those concerns and combined with an irrefutable social justice case, it might be enough to get meaningful change.
I think we have 5 very strong reasons to help us take that step: Social Justice – we can’t leave people behind. Temporary – It is only here for a short term, if we want to take it out later. Controlling virus spread – We have to give people an alternative to public transport.Government Mandated – Government require us to do this, it’s not my choice. Government Funded – These are emergency funds that can’t be spent on anything else.
So before we get cries of wasting public money, no one will use it, it’s causing gridlock and pollution. We can publicly build this case and ensure these activities are seen as addressing our problem, and give people reasons to support, reasons they can relate to. At some point, certainly for the first days and even weeks, it’s likely people will be sat in a car in a jam, looking over at a near empty lane. Before they get there, they need to see messaging on social media and in the local papers along the lines of:
‘We appreciate that many will choose to drive rather take the train, tram or bus at this time but there simply won’t be room for everyone to do that. And for 1/3rd of GM household it isn’t even a choice. We have to remember that. We don’t have 12,000 extra bus’s to solve that and we have a moral obligation to give people a safe travel option. I’m sure drivers wouldn’t want us to penalise those that don’t have that choice, in fact we hope many will choose to join them and free up vital space for those that have no alternative.’
And whilst they are sat in traffic, they look up at the lampposts and see signs that say things like: ‘Not everyone has a car, we are looking after everyone. Thanks for your patience’. ‘Thanks for your patience, this lane is for those who normally rely on public transport’. ‘If you can ride, you’re helping free up space for those that can’t. Thank you!’
I believe, as we head into this next phase, this is how we should approach what is likely to be a once in a lifetime scenario, to help now and, as a hugely viable spin-off, find out if people want to keep riding in the future. Because that is the unspoken 6th reason to take a political risk: This is the ultimate consolation opportunity, it comes with with a moral reason, funding and political cover. Rather than ask people what they think about plans for their street, we can find out if they like it, with planters, cones and paint, they can try it out. If after a few months people want to go back to traffic and pavements covered in cars, then no harm done, remove the cones and planters and we can carry on. But if they do like it, cones can be replaced with lanes and planters with permeant bollards. Which ever school of thought turns out to be true, the experiment will have been worth it.
Ruth Cadbury MP Thanks Chris and before I move on, I just want to welcome MPs and Peers who have joined us today. Lillian Greenwood, my fellow Transport Committee member, Mike Kane, who’s the Shadow Transport Minister on Labour’s front bench. Andrew Selous, who was my fellow co-chair and is now PPS so not able to take a role on the APPGCW in the same way. Virginia Crosbie, and from the Lords Tanni Grey-Thompson. So, welcome to everybody. Okay, thank you. And right if we now move on to counsellor Waseem Zaffar, who’s the Transport and Environment lead at Birmingham City Council.
Wassem Zaffar Thank you chair and good morning colleagues. It’s quite daunting following on from Chris for a fat kid from Birmingham who had never been on a bike until two years ago. It’s a it’s a huge challenge. So I’ll try I tried to give you the Birmingham perspective on where we’re going. And everything that Chris said about social justice and the challenges that exist in Greater Manchester and elsewhere. Really concur with what he said and it really does reflect where Birmingham is.
We are a city that’s been dominated by private cars for many, many years. A city that’s made decisions privatising private car for many, many years and for those that visit Birmingham, you know about the concrete colours that we’ve got in our city, I think for many, many years, and for us, we’ve been on a bit of a journey, pardon the pun. Over the last few years, I took this particular portfolio after the May 2018 elections. And very quickly, we set up on a challenge to clean up the air. We’ve got the biggest air pollution problem outside London, we’ll be introducing a clean air zone in the very, very near future. It’s been delayed because of COVID. But we hope to launch in early 2021, which will charge all vehicles including privately because I think we’re the only city outside London, which is looking to introduce some form of ultralow emission zone, which will charge private vehicles to and it’s been difficult but we’ve been brave and bold and you know, I’ve personally faced a lot of criticism but I think if we are going to reverse health inequalities in our city and I represent the Lozells Ward, which has the lowest male life expectancy in the city, if you are going to tackle some of these key social justice issues, we have to make these bold and bold decisions in January.
This year we published the draft Birmingham transport plan and went out for consultation. The four key things within that were the four big moves that reallocating road space away from private car towards sustainable transport, creating a car free city centre, credit active neighbourhoods and using parking as a demand travel management to and we were coming towards the end of our consultation with respect and there was a lot of commentary on our draft transport plan both locally and nationally and even some internationally too. We came across COVID so within four days of Grant Shapps, Downing Street briefing, we put together an Emergency Birmingham transport plan, which was, you know, an action plan on what we can do within six to eight weeks what we can do before hopefully schools, colleges and universities re-open in September and what we can do by the end of the and we’ve utilised the emergency active fund active trial for we’ve been allocated a million pounds. As Birmingham, we’ve topped that up to £1.6 million to pull together 14 projects we can deliver by the end of July. So this is the tranche one project and within that we’ve got seven pop up cycle lanes running 15 kilometres, going out various directions from the city centre, that’s building on the segregated cycle lanes, which we launched a year ago, Tom Watson, who was then a local MP to us was really keen to get involved in cycling and share his journey that he’s had and he came and launched our blue cycle lanes down the A30 and A34. And I think they make something like seven kilometres. So you know, we’ve had a really huge success with that and we wanted to really build upon that.
We’ve also we’re also looking at Park and Pedal, Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and for us in Birmingham where we are a diverse city with real pockets of deprivation and what I’m getting a lot of is in some of the affluent neighbourhoods in some of these white middle class neighbourhoods, I’m getting a lot of demand for change. People are demanding of cycle lanes people are demanding low traffic neighbourhoods. But in some of those neighbourhoods, like mine, we’ve got large pockets of deprivation, predominant BAME communities, there’s a real reluctance for change. You know, in our city, we do have a third of third of households don’t have a car. And then some households in our city, in particular, some of the deprived areas, there’s up to three or four cars per household. And this car makes sense of how we’re going to adjust this. And I’ve had some challenging conversation with some of my colleagues, you know, from ethnic minority counsellors who are reluctant to push forward with this change. So I’ve nominated my own Ward, for low traffic neighbourhood I know that may upset people but if you’re in politics, you’ve come to change lives not to be not to be popular. And it may mean that in a couple of years time I may not be in the councillor for Lozells but for me, it’s about changing lives and reversing those health inequalities and we also really pushing forward with creating a car free city centre or reducing car travel within city centre and prioritising walking, cycling and public transport within the city centre. And when we say the city centre is quite a large area it is the area with the Clean Air Zone so it’s bigger than the city centre but we refer to as the city centre.
So for me, moving forward one of the biggest challenges we’ve got is accessibility to bikes. Creating an infrastructure is really important, but it will not resolve the issues we have to ensure that there’s the right level of accessibility to bikes, Big Birmingham Bikes over the years handed out 7000 free bikes to people from socially deprived backgrounds or part of their social prescribing that they’ve been, they’ve been told by their GPs to, to get more active because of health reasons. But we need thousands and thousands of more bikes to hand out to those in desperate need. And because I was just on a call this morning with a friend of mine who is passionate about cycling, telling me the story of how he bought his friends daughter a £40 bike because the you know, his friend couldn’t afford to buy a bike those are the, the real challenges for us. And just in conclusion that some of the other challenges we have to reset the balance of investment from between London and everywhere else, the level of investment that we get in place like the West Midlands is you know, and the level of inequality is huge, you know, we get something like £450 pound per person per year invested into the West Midlands, London gets over £1000 pound per person per year. And we also have to rebalance the amount that’s invested into privatising public transport car and also walking and cycling I think walking is a poor cousin of the of the wider sustainable transport I found we’ve got to ensure that we rebalance that but I think there’s some real opportunities created by COVID. You know, there’s massive challenges with COVID. But there’s real opportunities. We have to grasp these opportunities, I’m going to stop there because I’m conscious of that time. So thank you.
Ruth Cadbury MP Thank you very much Waseem and I think you raised a very important point about the different views in different communities about support or not for cycling and moving away from reliance on the car. And that’s really difficult. I’m in Hounslow, I recognise that as well. Can I also give name check to the other parliamentarians who are on the call Feryal Clark MP from North London, Jeff Smith from Manchester, Harriet Baldwin, and also Lord Simon Russell, who has been a very active officer of the APG. Okay, now if we’ve moving for we’ve moved from moving from two great cities. To the bigger county challenges which are different countryside in towns. So I’d like to introduce Councillor Suzanne Bartington from Oxfordshire County Council. Over to you, Suzanne.
Suzanne Bartington Thank you so much. And I totally agree with what we’ve heard already. Absolutely. This is an unprecedented opportunity. Really, I don’t think we will see this again, certainly not in my lifetime for a pivotal change in active travel. And absolutely, I think the messaging is key because we are in a pandemic, we are in moving into recovery phase. And I think it’s absolutely critical that all of our messaging around these changes is very much congruent with that and acknowledges the fact that this is this is a necessary change that we need to make. I’m going to share a few slides just to set out the process that we have been through in Oxford share specific typically.
We are a rural two tier authority, which brings with it its own challenges. So roughly 700,000 residents with five district, district and city areas, and an area of significant housing growth as well. 100,000 homes planned through to 2031 which again brings with it its own challenges. We’re also very interesting in terms of our existing modal share of cycling. So we have Oxford City, which has really got a culture of cycling and is second highest to Cambridge in the country. And then we have a whole set of market towns where cycling to work is around 2 to 4% much, much lower in terms of uptake. We also have political geography we’ve actually got a different political parties leading both Oxford City and two of our district councils as well. So again, a really interesting landscape for trying to get political willpower on board to deliver these changes across five districts and six parliamentary constituencies. Just some of my own photos here from the lockdown period and this is the essence of what I think we need to lock in and be able to see I know for my own cycle rides, seeing those out who either hadn’t ridden for a long time or hadn’t been out on their bikes before. And actually looking at our initial data from Oxfordshire we’ve seen around a 400% increase in recreational cycling obviously locking that in towards utility cycling is going to be really important moving forwards.
Oxford City Centre which is renowned for congestion, poor air quality, the whole cities and air quality management area and terrible problems with gridlock roads, to experience it for of traffic, at least a 60% reduction in traffic during the peak time of restrictions in April. I think this really gave a concept of what Oxford could be like as a city if we achieve some of these changes moving forwards. And I found that the public that’s really resonated with the public in terms of saying we can hear the birds saying, you know, we’re able to play in the street now. We’re able to take our exercise we’re able to cycle on the street without fear of accidents. And that really, really, I think, has also resonated with our elected members as well because of the shift in the public conscience as to what is possible. In what we how we handle the announcement and the emergency funding, which was most welcome from Grant Shapps on the 9th May.
We wanted to liaise with our districts immediately we felt that was really important to get buy in, I felt as the cycling champion for the county council, it was essential to get member buy in to get support. And I have to say I’ve never had so many rural members interested in active travel. It’s now dominating many of our meetings. I think that itself is an absolute breakthrough. Obviously, there was a lot of pressure on officers in a very compressed timescale, I think that has been critical that this these aren’t the timescales that are our local authority to used to delivery and that has been a challenge. What we did was undertake a prioritisation so we score different schemes that were put forwards and we then prioritise them. So immediate, short and medium term to really try and get some degree of both coverage but also targeting where we felt that modal shift was a highest priority, particularly obviously, those key corridors with high public transport usage and Oxford itself has a very high proportion of bus users above the national, so we’ve opted for a package of measures. I’ve had many areas, I’d say one of the key elements of ours is taking forward the low traffic neighbourhoods. So we’ve we have we’ve cost those in our first tranche of funding was £597,000 for Oxfordshire and our overall is £2.9 million.
One of the challenges has obviously been getting sufficient coverage across the county with that, and we’ve wanted to deliver both in the city and in our market towns as well. So filtering, yes, using cheap, readily available materials. Yes, reallocation of road space, I think communicating that and I know Chris touched upon that is going to be really important as to why we’re doing that. So it doesn’t cause more frustration among those who are trying to get back to some sort of normality and the recovery period, Park and pedal features very promptly and in fact, Oxford was one of the first park and ride off cities that invest in park rides so park compatible with pop up cycle parking and cycle parking across our market towns as well, which is really welcome because we’re beginning to see people, as I said, who don’t normally cycle out on their bike and they want to be able to pop to the shop, particularly as the high streets reopen next week, school streets we’re hoping to accelerate. I know there are challenges with this and we’ve already got several city centre schools on board, we want to accelerate that for the particularly for the autumn. And of course, looking at areas where we’ve got restrictions on social distancing.
So in Oxford, what we’ve done and obviously we already have a local cycling, walking infrastructure plan LCWIP which went off to DFT in December, so this is actually a snapshot from that and demonstrating are the roots but what we’ve done on that is also plot those areas where there isn’t space for safe social distancing. And again, I think it’s really important to communicate why we are this is a health protection issue as well, as much as anything, this is a public health issue. And we want to enable safe space allocation in which is very challenging in the medical centre of Oxford. And maintenance. So this is a real challenge. And I think I’m sure, same in urban authorities rural, we have real difficulties with vegetation maintenance. And these are all photos I’ve taken myself out and about recently. And top left is a clear example of shoddy infrastructure as well, which we are pressing to change we have real problems with actually getting our arms like design standards implemented on the ground. And the photo on the right is actually a cycleway alongside the a 34. So it’s a trunk road essentially. And that’s maintained by highways England.
I’ve urged Highways England to bump cycleways up their agenda and I hope that we’ll get parliamentary support for that as well because we’re finding they are particularly poorly maintained. And then another example in the bottom left removal of barriers and obstructions. And actually, we’ve managed to integrate that. Within our first set of measures, we’ve managed to bring in funding which is already allocated for street space to be able to remove some of those obstructions which again, I think is really, really important. signage. So signage, we’ve got some excellent Sustrans routes, which run through the county. But in addition, we really want to get consistent signage across our network because I think it’s very frustrating, particularly for anyone who’s new out on their bike trying to find their way, particularly if they’re going for example, our key workers who are going to our major hospital sites, those who are trying to travel between towns by bike, and there are some excellent quite roots, but the moment they are not well signed, so that’s something else which we are focusing alongside the main measures which are obviously reallocating road space.
And finally, I just wanted to share an example here of a proposal. And this is actually for Witney Town Centre, which is actually I represent half of Witney, Witney North East, which is a market town of roughly 30,000 residents. I mean, this is this is a town with a very high proportion of car ownership, over 1.5 cars per household and free car parking as well. So Witney hasn’t traditionally been an area, which has, you know, really prioritised active travel, but I’m really pleased to see as a result of both what we have said, you know, we’ve got the backing we’ve got the political will in place now, with the emergency actor travel funding and also with reopening the high street, which is being supported through the District Council. We’re able to come together and look at what we can achieve in a market town. And again this is a plan which we are aiming to deliver as soon as we possibly can, which includes a whole package. So 20mph speed limits, pop up cycle lane restriction on traffic through the market town, High Street just to buses and taxis. We’re still discussing suspension of parking, which we know is going to bring challenges, particularly in this area. But, you know, this is the time to act. I think it is an absolutely key opportunity that we need to take. And finally, I just wanted to really touch upon some of the challenges we’ve had in Oxfordshire. So certainly timescales which I’ve already mentioned, very challenging with officer resource at this at this time. Governance as to where do these new measures sit with our existing policies, and we’ve tried to align as much as possible strategically.
Revenue I think is particularly important with maintenance moving forwards and criteria for removal. Thing measures has come up a lot. So there’s a concern that what do we do something when it’s not popular? What are what are our criteria for, for taking it or shall we just push forwards and maintain it? And that’s been a political discussion that’s taking place? How do we measure success? And obviously that that is really challenging in this time scales. And planning, I talked about a lot we’ve got planning schemes being signed off all of the time on a daily basis. Unfortunately, many of them don’t, at the moment reflect our ambitions for active travel. And that’s an ongoing frustration that I have particularly I think, in a two tier authority and comms, I think a lot of this comes back to comms. I love this to cycling. I think that’s fantastic. I would like to see a real coordinated public communications campaign nationally about what it is we’re trying to achieve here. And really, that removes a lot of the mixed messaging around why people think there’s a pop up cycling or a 20 mile an hour limit being introduced, that we make it really clear that this is part of the whole package. It’s part of recovery. And it’s really important for public health moving forwards.
Ruth Cadbury MP And finally, Claire Holland from Lambeth.
Claire Holland Thank you. And I’m delighted to be here. Thank you for inviting me. And I absolutely agree with everything that everybody said except for one thing that I will come back to at the end. And I just want to talk a bit about Lambeth and which is an our emergency transport response. And, and our purpose in our emergency transport response is to keep Lambeth moving safely, but clean and as everybody could see, in COVID-19, we can see everyone was using their streets differently. They become playgrounds, gyms and parks. And the Met Police reported shocking increases in speeding. Now for those of you that don’t know, Lambeth in South London, it’s a long, thin borough. And we have strategic routes running from south to north, the A23 the A3 just to name a couple, approximately something like nearly 70% of households in Lambeth live in flats. And we have a third of our children growing up in poverty. And the majority of households in Lambeth do not own or have access to a car. And this is particularly true in the north of the borough. And we all know that COVID-19 is a disease that hit through a spiritual system that those with underlying health problems are high risk and we now know that it’s hitting our black Asian and minority ethnic communities disproportionately and that nearly 10,000 a year die of toxic air related conditions.
So if you put all this together for us in Lambeth, this is an equality issue. And I was really interested to hear Chris talking earlier about social justice because absolutely for me, this is fundamentally about social justice. And so why we whilst we are being asked in London not to use public transport in order to combat the virus. For us in Lambeth, a car led recovery is not an option for all the reasons I’ve just outlined. And I believe that we are the borough with the highest percentage of public use the country. And if you have even a small portion of those residents and commuters that usually take public transport, getting into the car, it would be disastrous for our borough, and I say London because it would end up in gridlock, more danger on the streets and all the negative public health impacts. So what we’re doing in Lambeth is in addition to pavement widening or worse pinch points, we’re looking at upgrading of strategic healthy routes to link town centre to town centre and then up into the centre of London.
We’re implementing improvements on our quiet ways that need the most. We’ve received correspondence from key workers in the height of the lockdown, who said that they had got their bike out for the first time in decades or got one for the first time ever, because they didn’t want to use public transport. And they can’t afford to run a car in London. And so our first focus was on quietway five because it’s a a real strategic cycling that links the south of the borough to north and then into the centre of London. And it also serves Tommy’s and Guys with just a little detour, as well as those routes. We’ve been looking at creating low traffic neighbourhoods and we’ve got our first one in which is really exciting. And we’ve got our second one commencing next week being implemented. Along with all these other measures, so what we’re trying to do there is address the rat running by implementing these temporary point closures that people have talked about with planters, temporary measures to deter those short journeys, but also to prevent the rat running that we get, with people coming from much further afield and driving through our streets.
So that the aim is to for some of the traffic to evaporate and therefore reduce the levels. And first, the focus was to enable our residents and businesses to be able to move safely between town centre and town centre to support local businesses and to support our local economy as restrictions ease. And I think that’s what’s needed that place level placemaking at a local level. So to support the physical and mental wellbeing of our residents and create that sustainable environment that enables our residents to make those healthy choices that we’ve talked about to walk on. cycle. And yes, we need all the support that goes with it the storage, the training, the affordability of being able to access the bike. And we need to enable our residents to have access not just to their local town centres, but for us here in London in a dense urban environment, access to green spaces and access to their streets safely. So that that then leaves our roads free for those who really do need to drive.
And so we were very quickly out the blocks on this and it felt really risky at the time. I talked to colleagues across London. And there was a real feeling that no one was clear on our powers, whether we would get funding what the pushback would be, because at that very early stage, we didn’t have government backing. And I just felt we had to take that bold step and we couldn’t wait because we felt that the stakes were too high for us. So how did I get buy in from my colleagues? Well, I think it was Fundamentally demonstrating what the outcomes would be. That was evidence led based on our transport strategy last year and all the research and data we did around creating our implementation plans, but also about why we were doing it. So I agree entirely with Chris. It’s about how you frame it, because I’m committed to this agenda. Because for me, it’s about addressing inequalities. And it’s about protecting and promoting public health and supporting our local economy. Because I think a green recovery is not a choice. And it I think it’s the only option for us on the table. We can’t go back to how we used to do things we have to change. And in Lambeth, we were already putting in tackling inequalities at heart of everything that we do, and we were already moving to working to a neighbourhood model. And so creating and implementing an Emergency Transport Strategy with those Lambeth values at the heart of it, I think is what enabled us to get buy-in so quickly. From political colleagues and from officers, and one of the things that’s interesting is that it has enabled us as a council to learn. And that we can actually do things quickly. councils tend to be risk averse, like many large organisations. And I think traditionally, when we work in silos, we had already been looking at sort of a one council approach, and was trying to change the culture of how we do things. And COVID made us do that really quickly. And really urgently, because we have to act, we have to act in what I say was a vacuum of detailed support.
So as local communities we had to step in and protect our local residents. So we had to be less risk averse and be agile and responsive to those immediate crisis that was before us. But there are increased risks and when you act so swiftly and in such novel and bold ways, but we determined that the risk of doing nothing was greater. And we just thought we can’t lurch from one health crisis back to another. And so I guess my ask is what can Westminster and MPs do to support us? Well, funding and certainty of funding, and, and also laws that trust local authorities. And because we are of our communities, and we know our communities, and we deliver on the ground every day, and we’ve had 10 years of austerity, and we have concerns over a funding gap with COVID. Generally, and, and I disagree with whether it was even about funding. I think it’s not about pitching against each other. It’s about we need more funding and investment for this in London. We feel actually, we have had a good deal. I want a good deal for Birmingham. I want a good deal for Oxfordshire. I want a good deal for London. So we need that funding and certainty of funding and we need that backing. And I think finally I just like to say that we need that trust as local authorities, we need the authority and the power to be able to deliver on the ground. We don’t just need the responsibility and the accountability, but we need everything that goes with it. Because we have local solutions for our local peculiarities for our local characteristics, and we know what works in our communities and we can work with our communities on the ground.
Ruth Cadbury MP Thank you, Claire. That’s excellent. Right. We’ve not got very long for questions and answers. And so we’re going to try and do this by pitching specific questions that have come into particular speakers. I’ll start with Tanni Grey Thompson, who uses a hand bike and wants to encourage more disabled people to to use cycle opportunities. But one of the barriers, particularly in rural areas, is those restrictive path restrictions that are there, I guess, to stop antisocial behaviour from motorbikes and so on. So I will ask, Suzanne, if she’s had any issues about about that. And also while I’m on to Suzanne, question from Roger Geffen from Cycling UK, about how successful are or could Park and Ride schemes be. Okay, Suzanne,
Suzanne Bartington Really, really important issue. So thank you, Tanni for pressing on this and we actually did a survey in market town of Oxfordshire. We have 53 barriers on our cycling routes of different varieties, many of which really should never have been installed in the first place and others which need modification? So what has been really challenging here is actually the evidence base. So every time I’ve raised this, I’ve had the response well, some of them are for safety. And I think there’s this issue about communicating risk and the fact that, you know, we need accessibility to be prioritised on these routes and also the this feeling that we need to have them to keep people safe somehow. We really need to address that and I’m not sure what that solution is, but that’s the pushback that I’ve had is this risk aversion. And so I’m pressing for these to be removed, I’ve put a map to officers and says said these need to be taken out.
Ruth Cadbury MP Okay, thank you and Park and Ride parking cycle. Is that Suzanne, you involved with parking cycle schemes or anybody else?
Suzanne Bartington We’ve said we’ve got Park and Ride sites around our city. And the plan is to increase capacity and cycle parking and have much better signed routes from there to the city centre. And also to have the aim at the moment is reallocation of road space. We’re still working on those plans with some of those. We’ll move into tranche two of funding. But yes, at the moment, we don’t have any new planned pop up Park and Pedal sites which I know have been considered by another local authority. So I would be interested to hear of those plans.
Ruth Cadbury MP OK, does any of the speakers want to pick up on this issue about how to get the message through and the opportunities through two communities which are generally more resistant to cycling, and yet where those areas are going to need more and that contradiction was seen raised in parts of Birmingham where you’ve got high levels of deprivation but high car ownership, I’ve been raising with the minister the need to increase funding revenue funding for cycle training. And certainly in Hounslow, we’ve got a lot of free cycle training, which is particularly targeted at BAME communities, women and more disadvantaged areas. In areas of deprivation, any of the speaker’s got specific success stories on that on that area?
Claire Holland Yeah, just to say I totally agree with that. We’ve been aiming our cycle training pre COVID because obviously now we’re everything’s up in the air but pre COVID at groups, older women, schoolchildren at people who don’t often wouldn’t have the confidence to cycle and we’ve been doing it through the schools, but we’ve been doing it outside of schools as well. And I think the other thing is not just like it’s enabling people to be able to afford a bike. So we do bike swap shops at schools. And we do try before you buy schemes with people so that they can and then pay on a monthly basis for a bike. And we’re doing repair workshops. And also, our bike storage approach was always just putting storage on highways. And so I got together with my housing colleagues, and we’ve now had a programme of putting bike storage on estates because especially post Grenfell people are not allowed to store their bikes in on their balconies or in the corridors. So it’s about looking at what are the barriers that you can then help remove, that will enable people then to have the confidence to go forward and make those healthy choices?
Waseem Zaffar We are seeing what’s the challenge of engaging communities and in particular BAME community still exists, we’ve got a few pilots, and a few success stories in Birmingham have largely been driven by the act of well being society. And two examples I’ll give you and that is working through community cycle hubs in, in, in parks, based in the heart of communities. We have a group of Muslim women through this Sohali project. And these women would the furthest have probably been gone from from their houses to drop their children off to school. We’ve got them now running marathons, and also cycling as a group together. And that’s because they’ve been able to peer support each other then seeing a group of Muslim women wearing hijabs some of them still wearing their traditional Asian clothes were running marathons and cycling is quite a story and they then become advocates and champions for others. And we you know, they’ve helped break down some cultural barriers. And another group we’re working with here in Lozells is a predominantly Bangladeshi restaurant workers who work late shifts and the last time they cycled for many of them was when they were in Bangladesh before they migrated to Birmingham, and again, seeing them at the end originally started off with a very small group. And it’s grown and there’s, you know, a real movement growing of young Bangladeshi men are out there cycling, and now some of them are cycling with their families too. So I think there’s, we need to celebrate and champion these advocates and.
Ruth Cadbury MP Okay, really tight for time. And there’s lots of questions coming in, we’re not going to able to answer but there’s one that’s coming I think is really important that we’re not talking about just about cycle routes, but what you do at junction, anybody got some input, anything really important to teach us about how you ensure that junction design is safe? Because that seems to be a weakness in some areas.
Chris Boardman I think it all comes under the willingness to do something different and take something of a risk. So we’ve got obviously got Brian Deegan on our team, who’s just churning out junction sites and ideas. But there’s also a crudity to what I’ve just said, listen, let’s get this space in. And then everybody treats the junction as they normally would for now. And then we know, it’s not how we want to do it long term. But there’s this this pace that we need to do things is a big part of it. I think just slowing people down around junctions I think is key. And the messaging and though it seems a bit odd, but the messaging around this is our problem, these people look after these people, and give you a reason to look after them a little bit more at junctions, I think is important. But there are designs there. I think if you start from a position of right, we want to do it, here’s our problems, how do we do it rather than, oh, this is a problem we can’t do anything. I think that that’s key, there are solutions that if you want to find the
Ruth Cadbury MP Anybody got some anything to say about messaging, because there’s going to be strong competition for road space. And there’s push-back in some authorities for even implementing this stuff. And then there’s going to be push-back from other interested parties, particularly the car lobby. And once the there’s such tight competition for roadspace and stuff gets really congested again. Anybody quickly strong messages that work.
Chris Boardman So I’ve learned a lot actually from Wassem and a lot of stuff I’d like to pick up. And I think the key is to is to make sure that everybody can see that space as being for people who don’t have another choice. And that gives you cover when somebody’s looking over at it and go but I want that lane. This is for people who don’t have a car and it makes it really hard to get angry about it then, and I think that gives local councillors and officers cover to do something that might be unpopular, you need to refit, it’s about cyclists, then it’s them and us, if it’s about people who have to rely on public transport, we’re not leaving anybody behind, then are much more likely to accept the inconvenience and we’re not using that argument. And we’re not getting the data out there about how many thousands of people don’t have a choice like you to get in the car. And I personally, I think that’s key in the short term for the next few weeks.
Wassem Zaffar I think co designing and co producing projects with our communities is absolutely vital.
Claire Holland Yeah, totally agree. For me. It’s about public health and equalities and that’s how I always frame it and I said in a meeting last night, I’m not a car fascist. Some people do need to drive.
Suzanne Bartington Yeah. I just think We need to not use cyclist in our comms. I think that’s really important. This is about people. It’s not about cyclists.
Ruth Cadbury MP Selaine is going draw this together. There’s lots of questions and also answers been put up on the chat and lots of projects and ideas mentioned by speakers. So maybe British cycling and Adam can put this all together and circulate it, because then we can share the knowledge and try and answer the questions that we weren’t able to answer today. And I’ll say goodbye and thank you very much to everybody and hand over to Selaine for final few words. Thank you.
Selaine Saxby MP Thank you, everybody, for today, and particularly our guest speakers. It’s been really insightful. I’m the MP for North Devon, which is a very rural constituency with completely different issues to most of those that have been highlighted today with an elderly population who tend to be on the bus. And we don’t really have many buses for people to get on and a lot of hills. So it’s been really interesting to hear how different and diverse we still remain and how urban centres need so much more help and Chris, and to highlight the sort of five reasons that you gave, I think has been a real key take-out for us as we’re talking to our local authorities and how we take this back to central government and move it forward. So thank you for that. I’ve written them all down very detailed notes and to and to hear from Wassem in Birmingham about the need for social justice and cleaner things. And again, it’s a very different environment that you’re in to where I am. So for me personally, it’s been really insightful, I’m sure for others on the call, and lovely to hear from Suzanne in Oxfordshire, because again, we have a multi- tier council system here in Devon. And the risk averse nature of councils I think, has been a real barrier for a lot of places. And I’m absolutely delighted that my district council is really now in innovating here. And I’m going to have a very exciting scheme in Barnstable despite not being quite certain how many people will take to their bikes up here but we are going to do it and Claire in Lambeth, flagging the equality issues and these low traffic neighbourhoods and again that sort of pinch points on rap bands, and people taking advantage of spaces that open up when people move out of different modes of transport, I think some really, really valuable points and to then hear about some of the risks on the disabled cyclists and enabling access to everybody, I think is something to really take from this. So thank you all for coming this morning. It’s a really exciting time to be walking and cycling for all the wrong reasons. But hopefully coming out of this, we can make change for the right reasons. So thank you very much for your time this morning.