As Bristol wraps up its year as European Green Capital, it is working with its three partner authorities in the West of England partnership to develop planning and transport strategies for a 20-year period to 2036.
These 20 years will see the world, its climate and the way we live in it change irremediably. If planning and transport are based on that change, they can give us much improved health and quality of life: otherwise, we face a horrible decline.
Right now, West of England residents can have your say
The West of England area is a leading light. Economically successful, a net contributor to the Exchequer, with the first English executive mayor outside London, Bristol is home to national organisations driving important areas of policy and practice, such as Sustrans, Soil Association and Playing Out (and Insall & Coe of course). So Bristol’s Joint Spatial Plan and Joint Transport Study, if they are really radical, could pathfind for other parts of the country.
The reign of the car is over
Consultation on these documents closes on January 29th. So please comment.
But please, no more of that tired old ‘I want empty roads to drive on and pavements to park on’ nonsense. For several reasons, old-fashioned car-centric policies and strategies just won’t work any more.
Must more residents = more cars?
First, the new strategies show that the region’s population will grow by some 200,000 – or even more – over the 20 years. Are these new residents going to be as car-dependent as the current population? It’s unthinkable, impossible.
The climate will make us change
Anyone remember the Paris climate talks, COP21? The ‘last chance to save the planet’, where the world’s leaders stayed up theatrically late hammering out the agreement that would save the planet?
Well, the Paris Agreement won’t save the planet because governments won’t implement it, but soon the ever-worsening storms, flooding, droughts, crop failures and the massive migrations will force our hand. Road widening and governments trimming taxes on motoring fuel, you can be sure, those will be things of the past. We’ll be planning and building for a very different future.
Sustainable and healthy cities are more competitive
Meanwhile, cities will all be in competition for investment and jobs, and while some will compete on the basis of poverty wages and terrible environmental standards, others – including the West of England – will trade on their good qualities. Clean air, healthy living, attractive townscape and landscape….
As we learned at Bristol’s Active Cities Summit in 2015, cities designed and managed with healthy, active lifestyles in mind are also competitive in the wider sense. This should not surprise us – we would all prefer to live in a good environment than a bad one.
To help you consider your response, a group of Bristol organisations, all members of the Bristol Green Capital Partnership, has put together the Good Transport Plan for Bristol. Businesspeople, note P21 – a group of traders hugely overestimated the importance of the car to their business, and underestimated walking, cycling and bus: more information here (declaration: I wrote the cited report).
Insall & Coe recommendations
What we need to do is pretty evident – here are three obvious things and one bright idea:
1. Don’t plan for small incremental changes year on year: consider how hugely different 2036 will be, in the grip of massive climate change, and make policy by backcasting from that
2. Model the public health impact of every proposal, and set tough targets on the existing critical health problems: get everyone out of their cars and active, cut Type 2 Diabetes in half, meet air quality standards immediately
3. Calculate Bristol’s energy imports for transport and set a target to cut them in half too
I think it goes without saying that to achieve these objectives, there must be no further expansion of road capacity, no further road investment, and a significant reallocation of public street space from car to active travel and public transport.
And the bright idea?
4. Market Bristol globally, from now, as the first Post-Car City!
Forward looking, great to live in, kids do better in school, more productive workforce, lower rates of non-communicable disease. The name alone is a rallying cry. I am hereby copyrighting it! Bristol, use it before some other city can do so. Post-Car City: the best place in Britain to live.
© Philip Insall, January 22nd 2016