Text of a letter to the leaders of the Borough of Poole Transport Advisory Group
Cllr Ann Stribley, Cllr Tony Trent, Cllr Ian Potter (Portfolio holder), Cllr Mark Howell, Cllr Mike Brooke. cc Julian McLaughlin (Head of Transportation)
At the last Transport Advisory Group that I was able to attend, Cllr Stribley challenged her colleagues to think strategically about the transport network in Poole. I very much welcome that.
In particular, if you look at other conurbations and cities in the UK and overseas, there is a groundswell of change which seems to have passed your officers by. In London, 24% of peak-time journeys are now undertaken by push-bike. Of course the congestion charge, the investment in Boris bikes, increased cycle-friendly infrastructure, growing traffic congestion, and the global recession will have all played their part. The Mayors office, and Transport for London have worked hard to achieve this modal shift away from car dependency, and it is now paying dividends.
And other communities and authorities in the UK have taken a very active part in striving to rebalance, and to reduce the over-dominance of motorised transport, in particular removing key barriers to easy, efficient and safe pedestrian and cycle movements. The Birmingham Bullring has gone. Several significant gyratory systems in London, including that at Aldwych have been unpicked. Cities and towns like Brighton, Southampton and others have thought systematically about how to improve the health of their citizens by cutting motor-traffic pollution, and encouraging the exercise and other health and economic benefits of lower impact travel.
In central Poole, we have the benefit of some of the best weather in the country, and mostly fairly flat terrain. Some of the away from road cycle routes, especially with water frontage are a joy to be on.
The Borough have taken steps when maintaining or redesigning to bring in some helpful measures, although maintaining minimum safe widths seems to be a struggle. But when not actively building cycle schemes, and where it gets difficult, more harm is being done to the actual and perceived safety of using the network, and this fails to persuade people of any age to walk or to get on their bikes.
We should learn much from the Scandanavians and the Dutch. Moving to the current position in Holland, where many people of all ages and abilities cycle regularly, was not painless. It arose in the 1970s via a campaign "Stop killing our children", which reclaimed public space from the dominance that has emerged with ever more cars on the road. A similar campaign has now started in London. We know that the majority of journeys are less than 5 miles, and that if you build, people will come. Just as roads like the Newbury Bypass have generated increased car trips, the nature of what we design around the West Quays will dictate what people choose to do.
If the designs enable connectivity, convenience and safety for walking and cycling, then people in the new developments on both quays will be encouraged to make their short trips that way. If, as seems currently the priority, all traffic modelling is based on shaving seconds off car journey transit times, the car will continue to dominate the town and to sever the community, especially with the planned gyratory option.
But also, taking a strategic view, West Street, West Quay Road, and the crossing ways present the hub of the entire network for any means of getting about across the heart of Poole. The National Cycleroute crosses at Hunger Hill, the Heritage Cycleway crosses by the RNLI, and many staff working for the significant employers around the town and Hamworthy already walk and cycle through here, and have indicated that they would be more likely to if the links were improved. Allowing poor design in this area sets a constriction on many of the short journeys that could be undertaken on foot or bike across the town. Locals would be encouraged to forgoe the car for their shorter trips, which will be better for their personal health, and for the economy and vitality of the town. Achieving modal shift away from the car will free up the highway network for those trips which are essential to the economy and life of the town including the Port operations.
And it is not just about transport, but also place. What impression of Poole do we want visitors to leave with ? What environment do we want our kids to grow up in, what neighbourhoods to encourage people to move into ? Key employers in the town have expressed embarrasment about the appearance of the gateway for customers and potential investors.
I believe that if you want to think strategically about the future transport network throughout the town, the West Street/West Quay Road presents a key opportunity for a step-change. You urgently need to direct your transportation department to
a) go and take a very good look at some of the towns and cities I have mentioned, and how they are rebalancing space to achieve modal shift, and living space.
b) download and read the many good design documents that Transport for London have commissioned, in particular I'd recommend https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/cycling/draft-london-cycling-design-standards/user_uploads/ch3-cycle-lanes-and-tracks.pdf. These are a pale imitation of good Dutch design, but highlight what should be achieveable now in the UK.
c) re-read the independent review that you commissioned of the gyratory plans, and your own strategy documents that seem to lie ignored and buried.
and d) abandon the gyratory plans, and modify the two way proposals to take far greater recognition that journeys undertaken by foot and bicycle are likely to be far more economically beneficial to Poole, than encouraging racetrack mentality and transit by car to elsewhere.
Because there just is not enough space to keep building for cars, or pretending that this is good for individuals or the population of Poole.
Transition Town Poole