Air pollution is big news, and rightly too, given that it’s responsible for the premature deaths of up to 40,000 people in the UK each year. Banning the worst polluting vehicles from city centres goes some way to reducing the risks, but the fact is that all petrol and diesel cars emit polluting particles, and it’s not just city centres that suffer. Until we’ve transitioned entirely to electric cars, busses and lorries, people living and working in our towns and cities will remain at risk.
Another way of getting cars off our streets is to encourage cycling and walking. B&NES say they’ll spend 15% of their £2.8m transport infrastructure budget on cycling and walking improvements in 219/20. I think it should be more. As well as focusing on the cycle routes we already have, money should be spent on local infrastructure in suburban areas – making car-free routes to school and into Keynsham High Street from the new developments would be a great start.
In Scotland, the government gives people grants to buy electric bikes. In a hilly town like Keynsham, this would be a great way of encouraging more people onto two wheels. E-bikes still give you exercise, but also an extra boost up Bath Hill or Queens Road! I’d love to see B&NES Council running a scheme like that.
Until society stops treating the car as King, we won’t get more people on bikes (or walking). The way we talk about cycling only entrenches the status quo. When newspapers report that ‘a cyclist has been knocked off his bike by a lorry,’ they actually mean that ‘a person driving a lorry swerved into a person riding a bike.’ Sounds much worse, doesn’t it? If we see everyone on the road as people – and as equals – maybe we’ll all have more respect for each other on the roads, and more adults and children taking up cycling for their own health and that of their community.
Published in Keynsham Voice, May 2019, www.keynshamvoice.co.uk