Would a walk to school zone ease the jams?

Would a walk to school zone ease the jams?

A 500 metre wide zone around local schools – in which children are persuaded to walk or cycle to school – is just one idea being put forward to ease the traffic effect caused by so many vehicles transporting youngsters to both state and private Bath schools in the east of the city.

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London Road traffic

 

Transition Larkhall are involved in a a year-long study investigating – amongst other things – how parents take their children to school and why they choose to travel that way.

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Deadmill Lane is one of the roads surveyed.

 In conjunction with the University of Bath and the South West Foundation, this local community body – part of a world-wide transition movement which is working towards a post-oil economy –  surveyed traffic on 4 successive Mondays between 7.00am and 10.00am, at the Gloucester/London Road junction and on Dead Mill lane.

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Transition Larkhall have held two local meetings to explain to the community the results of the survey.

The Study Coordinator – Joanna Wright – told Bath Newseum what they had discovered.

You can read a full report of the survey as it was presented to the West of England Joint Transport Study Consultation via http://transitionlarkhall.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/West-of-England-Transport-Consultation.pdf

There’s more information – via Transition Bath – on http://transitionbath.org/transition-larkhall-analysis-show-50-baths-rush-hour-traffic-can-attributed-schools/

 

Buses

Buses

A message – and point of view – from Bob Draper…..

‘Come on Bathonians – Get out your angle grinders & welding torches….!

Having seen someone almost swept off their feet on the lower pavement on the north side of George St. by the front overhang of a tourist bus coming up from Queen Square  I wondered who controls these behemoths of Bath’s narrow streets? 

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One of Bath’s bright coloured tourist buses on its way down Milsom Street.

 Is it the local council or the Traffic Commissioners?

At every corner & junction these gargantuans of the tourist trade have to stop and wait for opposing traffic to clear so that they can swing out on tho opposite side of the road in order to make the corner. there is an irony in the in the winter months that the load factors are often so low a Smart car would be sufficient!

 For the sake of pedestrian safety maybe buses should fitted with some of these:

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Maybe Bath Newseum readers would like to suggest what would be a suitable size of vehicle for Bath’s clogged arteries’?

Bob Draper, Bath.

Ben urges B&NES to sort out the traffic.

Ben urges B&NES to sort out the traffic.

Bath’s city roads are now operating at maximum capacity – says the city’s MP Ben Howlett – and that means any accident or obstruction within the system is causing chaos.

He’s jumped into the traffic issue fray by urging B&NES  to pull its finger out and take measures to ease things.

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London Road traffic.

Mr Howlett says Bath city centre has seen even worse congestion than normal in recent days. 

In a statement he says, “It is increasingly clear that the city’s roads are at maximum capacity and that any accident, or obstruction causes widespread traffic issues.  I am therefore calling on the Council to place renewed energy behind the Integrated Transport Strategy, which has received cross party support, to improve cycle paths, create safer non-car routes to schools and facilitate a stronger focus on walking in the city.  

I also urge the Council to take the long overdue decision on the park and ride to the East of the city to reduce the volume of traffic entering the city from that side.  The West of England Local Enterprise Partnership received £2.3M on encouraging more people to leave their cars outside of the city and I would like to see these fund spent to the benefit of Bath residents, businesses and commuters alike.

Ben Howlett MP

Ben Howlett, MP for Bath.

I strongly believe it is also time to get on and build the long overdue A36/46 link road to relieve the volume of through traffic and therefore begin to relieve congestion to the eastern side of Bath. 

Plans for the A36/46 link road are already being discussed with Highways England, Local Authorities and the West of England Combined Authority following a meeting with the new Transport Minister last month.  My own petition has now received over 2000 responses and announcements are due shortly on the next steps towards this vital infrastructure project. 

I hope in light of the severe traffic issues seen recently that the Council will take urgent remedial action to address the situation, alongside implementing longer term strategic initiatives and infrastructure projects to bring Bath’s roads back from their current capacity status”.

 

B&NES acts on traffic jams

B&NES acts on traffic jams

B&NES has taken emergency steps to try and ease the traffic congestion that has gripped the city this week.

According to a spokesperson, indications from traffic monitoring from the last three days shows that these steps are having an impact; traffic congestion is around its usual level during peak time and during the off peak period there has been slightly less traffic than usual. 

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Roadworks in North Parade – a factor

A number of factors have created congestion problems including Freshers week, a bus breakdown, collisions causing road closures and irresponsible parking. Unavoidable roadworks at North Parade have also had a contributory effect.

The Council’s contractor and highways and traffic teams will continue to monitor the network over the weekend to assist traffic flows. They are also looking at ways to speed up delivery of the North Parade works, and considering further restrictions on utility companies who want to carry out non-essential works in the city centre.

Actions already taken

The Council has taken a series of actions including:

Temporarily suspending one signal crossing in Dorchester Street until October 30. Three other crossings are available along this short road. This action should also benefit public transport movements.

Opening up Avon Street to St James Parade to all traffic – it was previously restricted to buses and taxis.

Additional VMS signage to inform the public and direct traffic away from the North Parade area.

Changing city centre traffic light timings.  Continuous monitoring is in place and signals staff are out and about ready to make any further necessary signal timing adjustments.

More regular and high-visibility enforcement from parking staff to prevent drop-offs and deliveries creating congestion. 

On Monday the bus gate was opened to allow traffic to flow through.

Traffic marshals have been deployed from the start of the works on North Parade, and provide updates and information to allow rapid responses to traffic issues.

Closing a temporary pedestrian crossing on Manvers Street. There are signal controlled crossings at either end of Manvers and Pierrepoint Streets.

The Council is also considering changing junction priorities to see if traffic can be moved through the Bath Quays Development site more quickly. 

The Council anticipates that these measures will result in further reduction to traffic congestion in the city centre and a return to normal traffic flows. Monitoring indicates that the steps we’re taking are having an effect, but we will continue to keep a close eye over the weekend and into next week.

Councillor Anthony Clarke (Conservative, Lansdown), Cabinet Member for Transport, said: “I would like to thank the travelling public for their patience over the last week or so. We’re very aware of the recent congestion issues and are doing everything that we can to keep traffic flowing through the city. We will continue to monitor this and put in place measures to tackle it as best we can. Bath’s road network is already operating at near capacity especially at peak times and so it only takes a small number of incidents to cause significant traffic problems.

“We appreciate that work at North Parade is having a knock-on effect on the congestion. We have carried out patch repairs to North Parade over the last few years but the lower levels of the road surface are now in desperate need of repair.  It is clearly better to take preventative action now than to allow the road to deteriorate further and cause greater long term disruption. I would like to see the works completed ahead of time and officers are looking at how this could be achieved.”

 

Bath MP discusses relief road for the city.

Bath MP discusses relief road for the city.

Bath MP, Ben Howlett took up the case of a relief road for the city when he met the new Roads Minister for the first time. 

He had talks with the Rt Hon John Hayes, Minister of State at the Department for Transport with responsibility for strategic roads to discuss the A36/A46 link road. 

Ben Howlett MP

Ben Howlett, MP for Bath.

Ben reported of the meeting

“The Minister was very receptive to the idea of the A36/A46 link road, particularly one that aesthetically reflects the character of Bath and the surrounding countryside.  I will be working closely with the Minister, Highways England and Historic England in the coming months to ensure that the correct feasibility and scoping projects are undertaken and that that views of constituents are listened to during the consultation period.”

The Minister himself said of the meeting

“There is a rare opportunity in Bath to protect the unique character of the city, and enhance the surrounding area with a beautiful infrastructure project that can be admired by future generations whilst helping to resolve Bath’s traffic congestion woes.  Action here is long overdue, and the importance to the entire road network for the region cannot be underestimated.

I very much hope to see rapid progress towards developing a solution that will ensure Bath’s unique heritage is both preserved and enhanced.”

Ben has also been collecting signatures on his parliamentary petition in support of this project which now total over 1500 –  and is urging people who have yet to sign,  to please do so.

You can email him ben.howlett.mp@parliament.uk and his office will ensure a copy is delivered.

Consultation favours skateboard facility for Alice Park.

Consultation favours skateboard facility for Alice Park.

A park and ride site east of Bath isn’t the only facility being pushed for at this end of the city.

A committee meeting at the Guildhall today ( Monday, August 22nd) will receive the results of a public consultation regarding the setting up of a skateboard amenity at Alice Park.

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The Alice Park sign.

B&NES set aside £100,00 as part of a programme to improve the quality of parks and play provision in the district after receiving a petition in 2013 of 572 names calling for such a play area to be set up.

There has been a total of 282 responses to the public consultation with an overall 2:1 in favour of the skate park.

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The skateboard site – across the city – at Royal Victoria Park

From the survey results – to be presented to the Alice Park Sub-Committee – the main reasons cited for favouring the development of the Skatepark were: 

A Skatepark would promote healthy lifestyles and physical challenges

It would promote a sense of community – through the social side of skate parks

There are not enough facilities for young people in the east of Bath

A Skatepark would keep young people occupied and out of trouble

It would create a safe place for children to develop a sense of independence

From a minority of responses (those not in favour of the skate park), the main objections to the scheme were that a new skate park would:

Cause increased parking problems in the vicinity of the park

Lead to a change to the landscape and loss of tranquil aspects of the park

Contribute to more people urinating publically in bushes and against trees rather than paying the recently introduced toilet charge of 20p

Bring increased anti-social behaviour.

The survey report continues: ‘One of the prime reasons for building a skate park is to encourage families with a range of children to visit the park and to keep young people playing outside for as long as possible. Bath has a higher than average level of childhood obesity, and every opportunity is being sought to encourage a pattern of healthy lifestyles.

Such lifestyles will carry them into adulthood with physical activity and social interaction at its core. It has been shown that children will play outdoors until the age of 11 with little encouragement needed, but after that age, it is the family involvement that will set a pattern for life.

With parents asking for more for their older children to do in the park, the new skate park would assist parents by encouraging their children to go outdoors and stay active.’

Alice Park

Alice Park.

The report concludes:

‘There was a good response to the consultation (282 recorded responses), with a clear majority in favour of the development of a skate park in Alice Park (68%: Yes; 29%: No).

There are existing concerns about parking and road safety along Gloucester Road and the commissioning of a specialist parking and traffic survey would be advisable as part of a project to build a skate park in Alice Park.

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Parking around the park can already be a real safety issue.

Those opposed to the scheme have concerns that a new Skatepark would increase the number of incidences of anti-social behaviour and these would need to be addressed through improved surveillance by a partnership of police, council officers and the community. There would also need to be a clearly publicised reporting system for those who witness incidents of this kind.

An appetite for improving other facilities in the park suggests that an investment in improving the tennis courts would be welcomed by park users’.

Making Bath roads work.

Making Bath roads work.

A recent meeting of the full B&NES Council found plenty of opposition groups vying for attention outside the Guildhall. One of them was a group of cyclists concerned that trader pressure for additional loading bay spaces was going to rob those on two wheels from a cycle track which provided them with some protection from the dangerous London Road.

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Protestors gathered outside Bath Guildhall.

Within the city is an organisation called CycleBath – a community of bike riders who campaign for making space for cyclists so that – according to their online website – ‘cycling – a truly democratic form of transport as well as exercise, sport and leisure – can be enjoyed by anyone, from 8 to 80+.’

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Adam Reynolds who is Chair of CycleBath.

The Chair of the organisation is Adam Reynolds who has kindly written a piece for Bath Newseum in which he states his concerns for the provision of cycling space, expensive and ineffective proposals to ease congestion and what he thinks is a lack of enthusiasm for doing anything new and invigorating on the transport scene.

His article can be read below. I am sure he would welcome your comments.

Bathxit

As Chair of CycleBath, you would think that I spend most of my time campaigning for cycle infrastructure and addressing cycling related issues. These days it’s more about fighting for segregated space for the most vulnerable road users. That means campaigning for separate space within schemes for walking, for cycling, and for driving. You do not share.

Spending years trying to understand this area has lead me to learning how you design road space within urban and rural environments to deliver good ‘livable’ streets that create cohesive, good community spaces. Primarily it’s keeping up with what does or does not work around the world and applying it to “what if” scenarios, primarily to the City of Bath.

The Political Void Bath suffers

With every, and I do mean EVERY successful scheme, it comes down to one thing. A political leader with a vision to push hard, really hard, against what people are comfortable with. A political leader supported by other politicians, able to push for what they want within the Council’s senior officers.

We live in a fantastic city. A city that is world renowned for its beautiful Georgian architecture, the fabulous Roman Baths, horrendous traffic, and poor air quality. A city dominated by, what can only be described as, a plague of cars.

A city measured by its Outstanding Universal Value that must be protected to retain its world heritage site status. A city that has been threatened with losing its world heritage status as the OUV degrades due to congestion. A city that needs a strong political class with a vision for what the city should be and prepared to protect and increase the OUV.

Yet, politically, the decisions we make are not for the city of Bath. They are made for Bath and North East Somerset, and of more concern, decisions about the city, the decisions that should protect and enhance the OUV of the city, are made by a council cabinet, where only one member lives within the city.

At a fundamental level we have a city, where decisions are made that cannot impact external wards negatively. A city that operates within a political void where the OUV of the city is sacrificed at the altar of votes.

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So when 8 different working groups at the recent Transport consultation day proposed congestion charging, something proven worldwide to reduce congestion, we have a Council who will not act upon this proposal as this has a negative effect on external wards while increasing the OUV of the city.

London Road

London Road

They can, however, propose a £10million park and ride that would at most reduce the number of cars driving down London Road by 1 per minute. Politically that works with the rural wards but fails miserably for the city. In fact, it will reduce the OUV of the city.

We have a cabinet member for Transport living in Colerne stating that he wants to make it easier for cars to travel north to south through the city of Bath, something that would reduce the OUV of the city. A policy that encourages car use. 

Something that is known in transport as “Induced Demand” where you end up with more congestion at the end of the day. Sustainable cities around the world are making it harder not easier, to get around cities by car. That’s not to say they make it impossible.

A cabinet member that has instructed council officers to consider walking and cycling a key part of schemes. Then cancels a pedestrian crossing 14 years in the making on Bathwick Hill, connecting Combe Down to the University, despite every objection being countered by officers stating how the large numbers pedestrians and cyclists showed the need for the crossing. A decision where car traffic flow was prioritised over walking and cycling. A decision that reduced the OUV of the city.

A decision where car traffic flow was prioritised over walking and cycling. A decision that reduced the OUV of the city.

We truly have a city with a political void. Where decisions are made that do not negatively impact wards outside of the city to preserve the power base of the Conservatives.

So how do we fix Bath politically? How do we move forward into a place where brave decisions can be made about Bath, and only Bath, without interference from councillors who need to pander to their wards outside of Bath. A decision process focused on increasing the OUV of the city.

The only way I can see this happening is to have each community forum have transport decisions devolved down to them, with ward councillors from each community heavily involved in the decision making. 

Fixing Bath’s problems in other counties

A council likes playing in its own backyard. It’s known as Localism. It keeps things simple. So during the Transport consultation, many people proposed the idea of small satellite park and ride sites near to places like Corsham using existing bus services. 

The advantages to this approach are that it significantly reducing road miles by discouraging people driving to the edge of the city. It’s also very cost effective and very quick to implement. In fact, it can be simply a case of identifying an existing underused car park/wasteland area and creating a new bus stop with special ticket prices.

B&NES is quite happy opening up Saltford train station, but a more effective station to open would be Corsham.

Talk to the council about any of these and the response is, “Oh but that is Wiltshire”.

Suggest sorting out the Gorse Lane/Freezing Hill dog leg with two mini-roundabouts, with better signage up by the M4 to direct people to the Lansdown Park and Ride.

Talk to the council about doing this,  “Oh but that is South Glos. We don’t give money away”.

Bath has many transport issues, but let’s be clear, a hell of a lot of the problems are solved in other counties. A council unable to see beyond this because of a pigheaded “We only play in B&NES” attitude will never get to grips with Bath’s transport problems. This results in proposals like the East Park and Ride. A sub-par solution that negatively impacts the OUV of the city. Let’s not forget it’s also a vote winner with external wards.

Focusing on real congestion solutions

It’s all well and good me criticising but you should also be prepared to offer solutions.

The title of Bath’s Transport Strategy “Getting around Bath” implies making it easier to travel around Bath for all modes of transport. We are at peak car. Nothing we can do to our road system will help get more cars around Bath without paving over the river.

Even the proposed A36/A46 bypass completely ignores the big congestion issues on the western side of Bath, particularly, the A4 to A36 city through traffic.

Bath’s Transport Strategy should be renamed “Getting Bath Active” with a focus on walking, cycling and public transport. A focus on reducing car use in the city and reduction of through traffic. A focus on protecting and increasing the OUV of the city. A strategy that sets targets. A strategy that asks of the council “What type of city do we want to live in?”

The current focus within the council chambers and council departments is around managing the current volumes of traffic and making the roads more efficient. They are trying to build dams inch by inch while the flood waters rise foot by foot.

We should be open to solutions that have worked around the world and adopt them. When you look around the world at what has truly worked at reducing congestion, there are really only three ideas that make significant in-roads into congestion.

Parking control.

When Bristol introduces the RPZ in Clifton, P&R use shot up 20%. Nottingham is using the Workplace Parking Levy to deliver its £9m tram system. Zurich set a legal cap on car parking in the city, then built underground car parks, forcing the removal of much of the on-street parking in central districts.

A radical solution would be to introduce Bath wide parking control with 90% discounted resident permits, commuter permits, and use of the workplace parking levy. Providing a phone app to enable residents to police their own roads and summon a parking officer as needed. This recognises the inherent value of on-street parking and encourages people to use park and ride facilities.

London Road cycleway

A distant van blocks the very poor cycleway provision on the London Road

Congestion Charging

A A36/A46 bypass would reduce traffic on London Road by about 30% and cost £90m. The introduction of congestion charging in London, reduced congestion by 20%. Introducing congestion charging in Bath could reduce congestion by similar levels. This may not sound much, but consider that the school run is considered to be 23% of rush hour traffic. A more intelligent approach to congestion charging, say by only implementing a “congestion through charge” could also be considered where driving through the city in under an hour would result in a charge.

Making a city livable

When we look at a city, we need to understand how we make it more livable. How we tame the streets. How we remove the dominance of the car on our streets. This is why Lower Borough Walls works so well, but Seven Dials fails so miserably. LBW uses filtered priority (bollards) to restrict car access while Seven Dials is a through road. Businesses on LBW objected to the filtered priority during the consultation process, now they complain if the bollards are down. Making a city livable is profitable.

Closing residential roads using bollards can completely and utterly change a community. Many of these roads are rat runs. Many are roads where parents do not let their kids play. By making access to homes more convoluted for vehicles, it changes the space into “living streets”. It makes it a quiet street. A place where children can play safely. A place where walking in the road is possible. Where popping over the road to chat with your neighbour feels like running the gauntlet.

Show me the money

As with anything done within the council, it comes down to money. Congestion charging and parking control are profitable. By ring-fencing money generated to transport, in particular supporting better cheaper public transport links, we encourage people to switch from car to public transport. Even making streets liveable is indirectly profitable. 

Conclusion

During the recent transport consultation, 8 different working groups proposed the same solution to Bath’s traffic. A congestion charge to discount public transport and deliver more walking and cycling infrastructure. It’s cheap and immediately effective and provides a revenue stream that enables the council to deliver better transport solutions.

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Rush hour traffic coming into Bath on the London Road

However, a Cabinet of councillors mostly living in wards external to Bath will never act in the best interests of the city of Bath. It would impact their voter base too much. Bath operates within a political void where the residents are not in control of their own destiny. Where decisions are made to try and increase the conservative vote in the city while preserving the votes in the external wards.

We have senior council officers who will not consider what’s best for the city if it means paying another council to deliver the solution. Officers wed to the principles of maximising traffic flow when the evidence backed solutions from other cities around the world are focused on modal equality (providing segregated walking, cycling and driving space) and reducing traffic flow in cities).
We need a Bathxit. We need devolved decision makers that can make the brave decisions that will deliver a sustainable, beautiful city, and not the car-choked city it currently is. Decisions that are politically hard but are proven to work. We need to protect and increase the Outstanding Universal Value that makes this city a world-renowned heritage site.

We need to protect and increase the Outstanding Universal Value that makes this city a world-renowned heritage site.