Wendy Zakiewicz is a local cycle instructor on a mission. The pandemic she says highlighted cycling as a solution – not only to transport issues but as a route to better health.
However, as things slowly return to something like normal she is concerned that lessons won’t be learned and that roads will once again be reclaimed by cars.
She has copied me in on an email she has sent to Cllr Joanna Wright – the B&NES cabinet member responsible for transport services – and herself a keen campaigner for sustainable travel.
I am printing the email in full and also the email reply Wendy received from Cllr Wright.
Something for us all to think about.
Dear Joanna Wright,
Firstly, I wanted to say thank you for your work on supporting active travel around Bath. I am a cycle instructor and know that fear of the road is the main factor preventing people from riding bikes.
As shown in other parts of the world and other cities across the UK, creating well planned infrastructure is fundamental to the success of helping people choose to travel by bike. However, these proposals should just be the start of the commitment to active travel.
During the first lockdown, when the roads were quiet, people felt safe to ride their bikes on the road. However since then, the roads have once again been reclaimed by cars and vehicles that intimidate and prevent vulnerable road users from using them.
The covid pandemic has highlighted cycling as a solution not only to transport issues but as a route to better health, mental well being and a response to the climate emergency. It is tragic to see the roads returning to a new normal with emptier cars, emptier buses and still so few cyclists.
My family do not own a car, which is a very common situation within the boating community of which we are a part of. I am concerned for the lack of social justice for those who are forced to put themselves in a vulnerable situation.
The clear air zone, although a start, remains very far from being a genuinely a clean air zone. This will only be achieved if more power is given to it and the city centre is prioritised for those with zero emissions. I remain concerned at the lack of action towards the climate emergency.
As a parent I am also concerned for the lack of commitment to the younger generation. My youngest children are fortunate enough to be able to cycle to primary school as the route takes them along the canal tow path. This has not only helped maintain their fitness, but the responsibility of cycling to school has also nurtured their independence.
It was incredibly frustrating therefore when my oldest child went to secondary school at Ralph Allen, as there was no longer any provision to enable him to cycle to school. He has since had to rely on a taxi that is provided for him by the council (when we are moored towards Dundas), or by bus (when we are moored towards Bath).
This not only removes the independence of being able to get to school on his own, but limits his choices, such as being able to take part in after school clubs, as he has no way of getting home once the taxi or bus has gone at the end of the school day.
As mentioned, I appreciate the work that you have done regarding active travel and I truly hope that the recent plans put forward become a reality. But I am concerned that more action is still needed to meet your green manifesto and respond to the climate emergency.
Cllr Wright replied:
Thank you for taking the time to write to me about how important cycling is to the Boater community in Bath. As a resident in Bath who often uses the canal, it is very useful to hear your views of this community and how important having necessary infrastructure in place to enable cycling.
Since coming into post I have been doing my utmost to listen to the many voices that often do not get heard, so it is interesting to hear the perspective of travelling to school from your childrens’ point of view.
How we make changes in the short and long to deal not only with the Climate and Ecological Emergency, but also importantly social justice and the impact on public health from leading less sedentary lives is going to require that these many voices are considered and taken into account.
The Active Travel Schemes will be put before Cabinet in May 2021 to be decided by those in cabinet posts.