Sunday, 3 May 2015

The Zone map that Clifton Tank Command Dare Not Show

Of all the maps that appear in the RPZ tank-battles, this is one that does not surface.

Its the map of where the air pollution levels in Bristol exceed the levels that are considered safe.

Look at that map. What stands out (to any resident of the city)

  1. The entire city centre is an Air Quality Management Area. 
  2. Clifton manages to dodge it, primarily by being above the town -though as it gets into Kingsdown and Windmill hill, height is not enough for the roads to stay breathable.
  3. The roads into and out of the city are pollution hotspots. That includes Gloucester Road, Bristol's "most popular" cycle road.
  4. The Frome valley pollution zone tracks the M32 perfectly.
We can't split the pollution into resident, business, public transport and commuter, apart from the Rupert Street bus & taxi only road —the one with the worst pollution in the city. Usually.

What we do know from the queues of cars on the A370 and A4 Portway every morning is the number of people who drive in to the city.  Any morning you can walk onto the Suspension Bridge and look down at the queue of cars who have done the portishead-M5-A4 route (and from other places, including Clevedon & Weston) and are now stuck in the Avon Gorge, fuming at the empty lane next to them along which park and ride buses whizz past. Any morning you can go to the footbridge above the M32 and look down at the line of near-stationary cars, all sitting with their engines on.

And in any inner-city area that is not an RPZ, you can watch the cars go round and round in circles looking for somewhere to park.

And now what -we have a  Somerset MP actually surfacing in the county to complain that Bristol's RPZ has had knock-on effects for Leigh Woods. Well, that's unfortunate —but not a reason for Bristol to attempt to do something about their air-quality. And an RPZ, if it actually helps alternate transport options in the area -including N. Somerset- will.

What's not covered here is that Leigh Woods has always experienced commuter parking -which was getting worse with the cost of crossing the Suspension Bridge, even before the RPZ went live. People who lived in the hinterlands weren't prepared to pay £2/day to drive over, and leigh woods became the cutoff point.

Well, Leigh Woods is free to roll out an RPZ too. As is Long Ashton. We can't say "but the roll-on effects" should stop any attempt at trying to make the city better to live and breathe in.

As for the residents of Portishead who say that Bristol is now trying to control where they work? 

Sorry. We are trying to control how people get to to work, to adopt options that aren't so literally poisonous to the city.

And the people who say "hold off until there's a viable alternative?" The residents of Portishead were all happy when the council spent £3M widening a roundabout, to reduce the time they spent queuing to get onto the M5 and then to work in Bristol or the North Fringe. £3M for what: one roundabout? Which, in a manner obvious to those of us who actually understand Queue Theory (it's not rocket science, you know), does nothing except move the traffic jams slightly closer to the city. North Somerset, under the guidance of Elf-King App Rees have spectacularly failed to get the Portishead Railway reopened for passenger traffic. They've actively opposed cycle facilities along their roads,  and actively campaigned against cycle routes through their two-cars-per-household-mock-villages.

It is the repeated choices and actions of the residents of North Somerset that have failed to provide that viable alternative to driving.  Why should Bristol care about those decisions? By leaving the city, these people abdicated their right to influence the decisions the city makes. And, in the hands of their democratically elected council, held back any form of progress. When they do attempt something, it fails so badly it gets ridiculed on national TV.

North Somerset are the hinterland of Bristol, not just geographically, but culturally.

Which is why we in the city can't afford to be held back by them.

We aren't trying to tell them where to work. We aren't even telling them how to commute.

What we are doing is saying "The road space and air quality in Bristol is too precious to waste on free commuter parking." By taking that away, anyone who wants to drive in still can —except they now get to pay for that right, so making the external costs of commuting in what is usually a single-occupancy vehicle tangible. In doing so it makes the now-internalized cost of driving in closer to that of using public transport, including the Avonmouth P&R site. It may even provide motivation for the residents of Portishead to push their councillors to get their thumbs out their arses and start working on this —maybe even setting up a Metropolitan Transport Authority covering the CUBA district, so actually giving them some input on Bristol's traffic plans. And, given there's an election coming up, maybe talk to their candiate MPs and say "will you do something for transport in the area other than staged photos in Leigh Woods?"

What we can't do is stop the RPZs and say "business as usual". Because its not just that everyone driving is causing congestion, they are helping poison the city.

Next time someone talks about resident parking zones, say "what about the air quality zones?". And if they don't have an answer, instead complaining how they have to use P&R instead of queueing to get into the city —you don't have to feel sorry for them at all.

1 comment:

brooksby1971 said...

I work on Lower Park Row. I cycle to and from work most of the time (oh, and I live in North Somerset). For various reasons to do with man flu I drove to work last week (the first time I've done so in nearly a year, in my defence).

To get from Lower Park Row to the St James Barton roundabout going home that evening took (I kid you not) more than fifteen minutes.

When I cycle down that way it takes about two minutes at the most as I filter between the lanes of traffic, and I can walk it in about five.

I'm sure someone can find a way of blaming benevolent dictator for life Ferguson for it, but I really think it might be down to there being just too many cars! Who knew?