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CPRE: the impact of road projects in England

No thanks not another motorway

Motorway - No Thanks, by JL57, Licence CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) produced a substantial academic report on the impact of road projects in England in March 2017. The report by Sloman, Hopkinson, and Taylor is relevant to the proposal for a bypass or so-called 'Harrogate relief road'.

Conclusions of the CPRE report

The main conclusions of The Impact of Road Projects in England report for CPRE are:

1) Road schemes generate traffic

The increases are +7% over the short term, 3-7 years, and +47% over the longer term, 8-20 years

These are increases over and above background traffic growth.

2) Road schemes have long-lasting negative impacts on landscape and biodiversity, and because they generate traffic, they increase CO2 emissions

One of many examples given in the report comes from the case-study in Blackburn: 'South of Blackburn, the environment where the road crosses the Stanworth Valley remains poor, with rather sparse tree cover and poor ground cover under the viaduct, in place of ancient woodland and rich bird and plant life that existed previously. Footpaths that were re-located and now run alongside the motorway are subject to noise and visual intrusion. Large numbers of houses along the route are also subject to noise impacts.'

3) In the majority of cases studied, there was no evidence of economic benefits

In buoyant economic areas, road schemes can result in development in car-dependent locations, causing rapid traffic growth and congestion on the road scheme and pre-existing road network.

4) There is a mixed effect on road safety

But increased traffic in the the long-term is likely to result in more more collisions causing serious injury or death.

5) Road schemes result in a highly car-dependent pattern of land development

This includes housing developments in the countryside, from which the vast majority of trips are by car, and business and retails parks generating traffic and causing congestion.

'This pattern of road building and associated land development is leading to a semi-industrial/urban landscape in the countryside, and the erosion of Green Belt that was originally designated to prevent sprawl. It is a major cause of the high levels of traffic growth associated with road schemes in the long term.'

The report identifies a vicious circle of road building generating traffic and creating a demand for more road-building: 'The case for more road building was (and is) partly justified on the basis that existing roads cannot take the strain any longer...However, provision of more road capacity does not deliver a stable situation - the more capacity is increased, the more capacity increases are 'needed'. 

Alternatives to new roads

What is the alternative? The report suggests:

  • *focusing housing and development in towns around rail stations, and where walking and cycling are practical
  • *invest in new high-quality rail corridors
  • *measures to discourage road use at peak times including road pricing and levies on workplace car parking
  • *reform of the way road schemes are appraised

The evidence on which the report is based

The report is based on data published by Highways England through its Post-Opening Project Evaluation (POPE) process. In the data is evidence from 80 road schemes of short-term impacts (1-5 years after opening). This is supplemented by long-term evidence from four road schemes completed between 13 and 20 years ago. The four older road schemes are the A34 Newbury Bypass, the M65 Blackburn Southern Bypass, the A46 Newark-Lincoln dualling, and the A120 Stansted to Braintree dualling.

Traffic increases in four cases studied

These graphs show the increase in traffic at the four road schemes, as compared with the background increase in the local area.

Newbury:

Increase in traffic due to Newbury Bypass

Blackburn:

Increase in traffic due to M65 Blackburn

North Lincolnshire:

Increase in traffic due to new road Lincs

Essex:

Increase in traffic due to new road Essex

CPRE report: relevance to Harrogate

Traffic on Parliament St, Harrogate

The CPRE report is highly relevant to Harrogate, where North Yorkshire County Council have proposed a bypass to the north and east of the town. The routes can be seen on Nidd Gorge Community Action's website.

In reality, what is being proposed is a bypass. The name 'relief road' has been given to it by those proposing the project, presumably because they think that is pyschologically less unappealing than bypass.

The stated reasons for wanting to build a new road in the countryside are to reduce congestion in Harrogate and Knaresborough. However, the council's own figures show most vehicles are on short, local journeys, and a bypass would do nothing to alleviate the congestion they cause. The CPRE report demonstrates that in any event, new roads generate more traffic and create more congestion.

Comments in the local press have been made by one councillor, to the effect that nothing is going to happen for a very long time, so people should 'get down off the barricades.' This rule doesn't apply to the councillor himself, though, who talks about the road proposal every time he is given space in the local paper.

Similarly, there have been comments to the effect of, 'of course we're not going to build over the Nidderdale Greenway or by the Nidd Gorge'. But if that were true, why have it as one of the proposals at all?

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UK clean air plan July 2017

26th July 2017

Traffic jam, UK town

DEFRA today published its latest clean air plan, designed to combat illegal levels of NO2 pollution caused largely by diesel vehicles. The headline-grabbing feature of the document is a re-announcement of an intention already made public in 2011, to end the sale of conventionally-powered vehicles by 2040. Is there anything practical in the plans which will reduce pollution now? Read about the UK clean air plan July 2017.

Inspiration from Dutch cycle infrastructure

Bikes in Zandvoort

Bike lanes in the Netherlands are designed with thought and intelligence to create a joined-up, easily  usable network. I took a few photos of cycle infrastructure in Zandvoort, and I've added some comments about the intention of the planners. In the UK, we should pay particular attention to the way they give bike routes continuity, instead of making them give way to every side street.

Read about inspiration from Dutch cycle infrastructure.

Santander bikes, London Cycle Superhighway, LondonSantander bikes near King's Cross

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