Reduce Climate Change by investing in Walking and Cycling

Wiltshire Council has recently declared a Climate Emergency and so Transcoco has decided to propose a number of changes that could be done to address this issue. The following proposal is for a realignment of Wiltshire Council’s transport spending so that it prioritises Walking and Cycling.

Why Transport

CO2 emissions in the UK are generally going down because many of the old Coal and Oil fired power stations are being closed. But Transport is the only sector where CO2 emissions are going up. This is because the vast majority of transport is powered by oil in one form or another and there has been a recent trend towards buying SUVs which now make up 24% of all car sales in the UK. The following graph shows the respective usages from the DUKES report 2018.

Current Cycling Policy

The Wiltshire Council cycling policy is part of their Transport plan for 2011-2026 and can is accessed via the following link . The document is dated in 2014 and one of the stated aims of the plan is to ‘Tackling climate change by reducing CO2 emissions’. The section on Climate Change states

In the South West, transport accounts for 28% of CO2 emissions with road transport dominating that total. Around 40% of emissions come from journeys under 10 miles.Wiltshire Council has signed up to the Nottingham Declaration which pledges us to systematically address the causes of climate change and to prepare for its impacts.

The figure quoted of 28% is certainly out of date give the rise in SUV use but may also not take into account the fact that it requires energy to get fuel to the pumps. Getting Oil out of the ground, to the refineries, the refining process, then more transport to get the product to the pumps is energy intensive. Every gallon of fuel at the pump takes a third of a gallon to get it there. Indeed at any one time a third of the worlds shipping by tonnage is devoted to transporting oil and its products. The figure is more likely to be 38%.

The policy document does set out all the good things cycling could bring including major health and social benefits, reducing congestion and pollution as well as a way of tackling climate change.

But it’s clear that the policy is not working as the level of walking and cycling (Active travel) is not increasing and all those health issues associated with inactivity are increasing, we are becoming more socially isolated, there are more cars on the road and pollution is going up. This situation is exacerbated by the decision to create large out of town housing developments without putting in the requisite cycling infrastructure to give people a choice. This means that more people are getting in their cars instead of walking and cycling.

Why is the policy failing?

Simply because Wiltshire Council fails to prioritise and invest in Active Travel. An example of this neglect is indicated in their use of  words like ‘Should’ instead of ‘Will’ see 1.19 on infrastructure. The result is:

  • Cycle paths are intermittent lines on a road,
  • motorists have not been trained to overtake a cyclist and so do not provide enough room.
  • cycle paths do not join up
  • poor lockup facilities.
  • The very high perception of danger amongst the potential cyclist.
  • Ongoing road improvements such as duelling the A350 around Chippenham actually makes the situation worst as the increased capacity is filled by ‘induced capacity’ The result is more cars on the road.

What is the Advice to Local Authorities?

The health sector see inactivity as a major health issue and Public Health England has issued guidance to local authorities on increasing active travel. This can be found at

The key points are

  • Physical inactivity directly contributes to 1 in 6 deaths in the UK and costs £7.4 billion a year to business and wider society
  • the growth in road transport has been a major factor in reducing levels of physical activity and increasing obesity
  • building walking or cycling into daily routines are the most effective ways to increase physical activity
  • short car trips (under 5 miles) are a prime area for switching to active travel and to public transport

The solution outlined can be summarised as

Pedestrians, cyclists, and users of other transport that involve physical activity need the highest priority when developing or maintaining streets and roads. This can mean reallocating road space to support walking and cycling, restricting motor vehicle access, introducing road-user charging and traffic-calming schemes, and creating safe routes to schools and childcare settings

Proposal To Wiltshire Council

That the Cycling policy is updated so that:

  1. Cyclist and walkers are given the highest priority in transport planning
  2. A £10 per head of population budget is provided for Walking and Cycling. If Wiltshire has 700,000 population then this would equate to £7M per year. The budget should be sustained for the next 10 years.
  3. Targets are set to increase the cycling and walking modal share to be 25% in 5 years.

Any solution to Climate Change must include a dramatic reduction in the use of the internal combustion engine. We need to move to be a society where it is easier and save to travel 2 miles into town by bike than to get in a car.

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