Lockdown has provided us with the biggest behaviour change programme we have ever seen. It would be a real travesty if we went back to ‘business as usual’ without locking in some of the benefits achieved during lockdown.
Wherever you’ve worked over the last three months, most of us can agree that lockdown has been challenging. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that its impact will be far-reaching and long-lasting.
But, as the West of England emerges from lockdown with the rest of the country, it feels right to reflect on some positive things to emerge from this crisis that are worth holding on to.
Businesses at the West of England Initiative’s latest meeting heard from those leading the local conversation on how we travel about lockdown’s impact on traffic congestion, air quality and carbon emissions. The findings are stark:
Peak time traffic levels in Bristol are said to be around 40% lower than pre-lockdown levels, although are back on the increase.
Bus passenger numbers are reported to be at around 13% of ordinary levels.
Air quality in cities is markedly improved as traffic has fallen.
A conversation about how the West of England can take control of its destiny may be starting to happen. And not before time…
After years of discussions, a devolution deal with Government promises to give the area’s local authorities more power over important issues like housing, transport, planning and skills. If ratified, it would unlock £1bn for local growth projects and provide councils with clout to make a bigger difference in these areas.
But there’s a sticking point for some that could derail the deal before it gets going. The government wants to see a ‘metro mayor’, who would chair a combined authority to oversee a joined-up response to the way these major matters are managed. Given the level of concern about this, it’s not certain that all councils will sign off on the deal.
This presents a potentially embarrassing situation where the councils who have shaped the deal on the table may reject it in the final event.
A big conversation is happening around Bristol that could shape local housing and transport for decades to come.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been working with colleagues to get ready for a major consultation which could map where thousands of new homes are built across the West of England over the next 20 years.
The phrase ‘West of England Joint Spatial Plan and Transport Study‘ won’t set pulses racing. But the issues it covers should interest anyone who has views about where they live, how they get to work or school or whether they will be able to keep a roof over the heads in future.
I was one of a group of commuters who took to Twitter after being held up in traffic caused by a survey on the way into Bristol this week. I set off early yesterday to start a busy week and hit an hour-long crawl coming off Wells Road as drivers were ushered onto the roadside and asked to complete a census.
I was late, and not happy, and my tweet said as much.
Traffic 'census' in rush hour @BristolCouncil? Sorry, better things to do, like get to work an hour late. Foul mood now.
The freak conditions have claimed a surprise victim in Broad Haven, Pembrokeshire, down the road from where my parents live.
The hump back bridge at the foot of Haroldston Hill has disappeared, swept into the sea by the high tide on Wednesday last week. All that appears left is the wall running parallel to the beach, which now dangles precariously without support over the sea-front.
No more walking across that wall with the kids for a while now, it would seem. Those who live or stay at the bottom of the hill face the inconvenience of a detour around the back roads to get through the village or into town.
Pembrokeshire County Council appears unable to say when the road will be restored. I hope I am wrong, as the Haven can’t afford to have the road closed for long, but my money’s on it taking a while to fix.
Those who wish to make the case for a swift response to the council should drop a line to its transport unit in Haverfordwest, or to Cllr Keith Lewis, who chairs its Economy Overview and Scrutiny Committee.