There is an inherent tension between the current status quo and the need for a “Carbon Neutral Eastbourne” by 2030. For transport, the challenge is a significant shift from 70% of trips, being made by car, to a better low-carbon future. To back this up, the message from the Government, Transport for South East and Eastbourne Borough Council is that a reduction in car trips is a key requirement. So the question is what progress is being made and will it be enough?
East Sussex County Council have, in their work on the Hailsham to Eastbourne Corridor, proposed a 10% modal shift from cars to buses, pedestrians and cycling. 10% is not actually enough but it is something to aim for. For it to succeed it requires a move of 10% of effort, budget and road space. That will reduce congestion, pollution and CO2 around town. Plus the additional exercise should help reduce the obesity epidemic and the consequent increase in morbidity.
Disappointingly, the latest walking and cycling data for 2019 from the Department for Transport (DfT) shows no real increase in cycling across the country. The average person made 2% of all their trips by cycling; and covered 1% of all their distance. However some Local Authorities, outside of East Sussex, continue to succeed in getting it right They have added bus lanes, safe segregated cycle lanes and safer 20mph low-traffic zones and their numbers are up.
Specifically for Eastbourne, the DfT describe ‘no change’ in cycling numbers over the last 4 years. Although the town has a good sunny climate and is mainly flat it languishes just outside, the worst performing 25% of Local Authorities, in terms of cycling numbers.
Even the Borough’s Eastbourne Direction of Travel states “To achieve a modal shift by delivering new cycleways and footways and enhanced public transport connectivity linking services, facilities and communities, and reducing reliance on the carbon-emitting private car.” and the solution is “embracing modal shift, culminating in a predominantly car-free town centre with excellent connectivity by cycle, foot, and public transport to all of our communities”.
The new DfT LTN 1/20 clearly states that painted lines on the road, will not be funded in the future. What is required for Eastbourne is a series of traffic-free routes into town. One currently being discussed is from the Harbour and Pevensey Bay. ESCC has already received funds for a safe, secure and segregated Covid-19 ‘pop-up’ along this route. In order to do this some parking space may need to be re-allocated.
So traditionally, local consultations in the county, have reflected the current power balance and are biased towards the majority. So one example is the over-estimation by stakeholders as to how many people drive, park and then spend in town, which has been shown, in Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, to be less than businesses think. There is then a fear of any change, from the current model. This bias works against less powerful groups such as bus passengers and cyclists where the infrastructure is often inadequate. Our cycle lanes are often too narrow, usually just paint and disappear at junctions or similar dangerous locations. There is also nothing to stop vehicles parking or driving in them. If we want cycling from 8 to 80 years old we must do better.
Never, has there been a better time, to try some temporary solutions ,than we have now under Covid-19, and the opportunity should not be squandered.