“THE real cause of traffic jams on our roads is the vast increase of car journeys in recent years – and in almost every borough,” says Cllr Jon Burke, cabinet member for energy, waste, transport, and public realm.

He goes on: “The first tweet thread above shows the startling growth in miles driven on London’s roads between 2009 and 2019. The data shows significant growth in every borough.

“The second thread focuses on the potential for road user charging to address London’s overloaded main road network. The link is to the Department for Transport’s 13 November publication Public attitudes towards traffic and road use.

“The salient points are:

* The number of miles driven by motor vehicles of London’s roads annually has increased by 3.6 billion since 2009 – an 18.6% increase – to an all-time high of 22.6 billion miles in 2019.

* Over the same period, the increase in miles driven on London’s residential roads is 3.9 billion, showing that not only have residential roads absorbed the full 3.6 billion net increase, they’ve also abstracted a further 300 miles off the main road network.

* Since 2006, the number of miles driven on London’s main roads annually has fallen by 800 million.

* Since 2013, the number of miles driven Hackney’s roads annually has increased by 40 million, exposing an additional 23,000 people to poor air quality, dangerous roads, and congestion. This is slightly below the 2002 peak, but the trajectory is upwards and it is likely that this increase has been borne by residential roads, given what the DfT data shows over this period.

* Transport for London has known for a decade that increasing congestion in London was getting worse; vehicle speeds on main roads were down; journey time reliability worse; and delays were up, including buses.

* The London Assembly Transport Committee’s 2017 report London Stalling states explicitly that “fundamentally, London’s road network is increasingly hosting more traffic than it has the capacity to cope with”, demonstrating – were it required – that congestion is not a new phenomenon in the capital.

* Londoners, and reputable organisations such as the Institute of Civil Engineers and Imperial College, support road user charging as means of addressing an overloaded main road network.

* Department for Transport data shows 8 out of 10 people support measures to reduce road traffic and two-thirds support reallocating road space for active travel.”

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/public-attitudes-towards-traffic-and-road-use

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[Extract from article in HuffPost – https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/electric-cars_uk_5fb64017c5b695be8300137c 

You Have No ‘Right’ To Drive A Car Through Our Neighbourhoods, Even If It’s Electric

It’s time private cars were placed at the bottom of the transport hierarchy, writes Jon Burke.

By Jon Burke

“Not TV or illegal drugs but the automobile has been the chief destroyer of…communities,” the late heroine of human-scale cities, Jane Jacobs, once declared.

This sentiment – with which I wholeheartedly agree – is clearly shared. Following the prime minister’s announcement that no new petrol and diesel cars and vans will be sold in the UK beyond 2030, I tweeted that Hackney would be ready to respond with one of the largest electric vehicle charging programmes in the UK.

But outraged Twitter followers were quick to remind me that “electric vehicles will not save us!”.

The uncomfortable truth is, when it comes to the motor vehicle, we cannot live with them, but we cannot – entirely – live without them.

Environmentalists are right to be sceptical of the latest government announcement. Not only will no single measure address the major challenge of our ballooning land transport emissions, but this specific one will have limited impact on the UK’s ability to hit the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s “higher confidence” 2030 target of 45% fewer global warming emissions than 2010.

It will also, manifestly, not address many other problems arising from our growing addiction to cars. But, environmentalists would be wrong to presume that the proposal is entirely without merit.

“Addiction” might seem like an overstatement, but the statistics speak for themselves. In less than 30 years, the number of motor vehicles on our roads has almost doubled to 40 million, and this phenomenon has been accelerating, with around half of that growth coming in the last decade alone …

… Private cars, in particular, should be placed at the bottom of a transport hierarchy that prioritises the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, public transport users, and our communities first.

This demonstrates that, contrary to the claims of some Low Traffic Neighbourhood opponents, main roads have been displacing vast amounts of traffic into to our communities for more than ten years, not the other way around.

And this brings us to the problems electric vehicles cannot solve and, therefore the limitations of the government’s announcement.

Electric vehicles only eliminate carbon dioxide emissions at the tailpipe. They do not eliminate emissions deriving from their manufacture and shipping; they do not eliminate lung-stunting particulate emissions, with 50% coming from tyre, brake, and road wear; they do not eliminate the significant social costs of rat-runs and poor road safety; and, crucially, they do nothing to address road congestion.

That’s why the work that so many local authorities are undertaking across the country, but particularly in the capital, to eliminate through-traffic and local short-distance car journeys – 50% of which are under 3km – with the introduction of controversial, but long-overdue, Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, is essential.

Nor will this be enough, with road user pricing, now being mooted as a key tool in the fight against car dependency.

Moreover, it will not be enough for the government, transport authorities, and councils to ensure the price of driving reflects the full social, economic, and public health costs it imposes on society; we also need to deliver fully-integrated, good value, and accountable public transport systems and first class walking and cycling infrastructure, which are lacking in so many parts of the country.

To misquote Aneurin Bevan, there can be no immaculate conception of Amsterdam, Copenhagen, or Oslo. We will not humanise the city by chance.

We should also be careful not to discount the social benefits of the motor vehicle and, in so doing, be tempted to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Even if we were to click our fingers and make every private car in London disappear tomorrow, which we cannot do, there would still be over 220,000 socially-useful vans in the capital, servicing the needs of its residents; there would still be the circa 10,000 local authority vehicles carrying out housing repairs and lifting the bins; and there would still be the many thousands of emergency service vehicles that help ensure the wheels of London continue to turn. They are, on the whole, not going anywhere, so they need to be zero emission at the tailpipe as soon as possible.

If we want to create human-scale communities in which well-being is placed before the long-established and often-expected “right” of drivers to dominate the roads, we need to completely re-imagine how the transport system of our country works.

That involves placing private cars, in particular, at the bottom of a transport hierarchy that prioritises the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, public transport users, and our communities first.

All the remaining motor vehicles, and especially the ones that serve the broader needs of society, need to be zero emission at the tailpipe as soon as possible, and that’s why we should, just for once, suspend our cynicism and welcome the government’s announcement calling time on the combustion engine, as a small, but essential, piece of the land transport decarbonisation jigsaw.

Jon Burke is councillor and cabinet member for energy, waste, transport, and public realm in the London Borough of Hackney

 

21 November 2020

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