Dynamo takes part in a site visit to the A6 today (Thursday 5th July) with Lancashire County Council Sustainable Transport Officer Alasdair Simpson. We’ll be using the visit to support our campaign for a continuous, high-quality cycle lane from Lancaster city centre to Galgate. Regular readers know we seek a significant shift from car driving to cycling, walking and public transport along this arterial route. Our vision is directly in line with Lancashire County Council policy. We made very sure of this before writing to Jacobs, the County’s transport consultants, in January 2012. So you’d think we’d be pushing against an open door. However, some mumblings from Council quarters suggest it’s not quite up to speed with its own undertakings. And it’s undeniably shocking that our thoughtful and constructive letter has been systematically ignored for six months.
A persistent murmur from County is the difficulty of accommodating a continuous cycle lane in addition to parking along the A6. However we challenge the presumption of a right to park outside residential properties on this road. We suggest it’s reasonable to expect residents, in the public interest, to walk to the nearest available parking space. We say sustainable, efficient, healthy transport for all users of the A6 should take precedence over minor personal (but unsustainable) conveniences for those who have properties along the road. The net result is likely to be an improvement in safety and environmental quality for all: not just travellers, but residents too. Dynamo sees that the Council made a rod for its own back by officially sanctioning and facilitating on-road parking along the A6. Dynamo years ago said the route should be maintained above all as a public thoroughfare. We don’t view car parking space as a commodity that must be found somewhere in passive response to demand. There are plentiful real-world examples of it being managed and suppressed by discouraging car-ownership and driving, while encouraging non-car-based solutions. This isn’t fringe radicalism, but completely in tune with County policy as expressed in the Local Transport Plan, 2011 – 2021: A Strategy for Lancashire of May 2011:
Providing Safe, Reliable, Convenient and Affordable Transport Alternatives to the CarAchieving value for money, reducing carbon emissions, and the encouragement to get out of the car and participate in more active ways of travel, and improving quality of life for those using or experiencing the effects of transport, will sit across all our transport and travel activities.
It’s no secret that Dynamo exists to promote cycling as an alternative to car transport. Its members expect the County Council to deliver on its policy of making car ownership and driving less attractive compared with more sustainable modes of transport. So it’s not our role to worry about objections by some affected motorists. It’s for the Council to educate and persuade about changing priorities in transport infrastructure, consistent with its high profile statements on the topic. Our job is simply to ensure implementation of the Council’s commitment to
“Provide safe and convenient new infrastructure for walking and cycling where it will reduce reliance on private car journeys between home and work, schools, and leisure activities, and particularly along congested routes, and improve opportunities for regular exercise.”
The A6 is a key test of the sincerity of this commitment, specifically identified in the LTP as one of the “Areas which will be the focus for these activities”:
“5.36 Public transport services and routes to Lancashire’s main town and city centres for employment and education; and congested routes in urban areas, such as Lancaster…”
As the Council states in the LTP: “Addressing these problems brings tough choices, but also offers significant rewards.” Dynamo believes that one such “tough choice” is to assert the greater good of cyclists passing freely along “congested routes in urban areas” like the A6, than the less defensible convenience of parking outside one’s home.
Another murmur we hear is about effects on retailers along the A6 if parking is subordinated to cycling. But we’ve neither the expertise nor the time to discuss the commercial effects of transportation changes. We assume the Council did its retail impacts homework when drafting policy. So now it’s time for implementation. All we can say, as lay people, is that traders often object to reduction or removal of passing traffic, only to later enjoy an upsurge in footfall due to the improved shopping environment. Arguably, less convenient access to the car and hence to distant supermarkets may encourage neighbourhood shopping. Customers on bikes, customers in cars: what’s the difference if they spend the money? Certainly objections without clear evidence should not be allowed to overrule stated County policy. What, otherwise, is policy for?
So, on our site visit today to the A6 we may find ourselves playing the role of conscience to the Council, pointing out practical ways of delivering on their promises. What we insist on is unlikely to be popular with those who’ve grown accustomed to having their cars within three strides of their front door. But we exist to foster more cycling, and we say ‘no’ to old-fashioned, car-centric thinking.