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Madrid or Market Street 

From Paul D

Sunday, 2 December 2018

One authority (Madrid) excludes polluting vehicles. The other (Calderdale) strives to increase traffic flow by restricting parking outside local businesses and making it very difficult for children to cross the road to school by phasing the crossing to favour vehicles.

In Madrid, local residents can park - on their own street. Here, we welcome day trippers by car who park on everyone else’s street. Here we introduce parking and permits and charges that displace parking to all the non-designated street around town. In Madrid, they say enough - get the vehicles out, make it difficult, make carbon expensive.

What bit of filling our children’s lungs with particulates don’t Calderdale get?

They poison our children through indifference and interventions that favour pollution. You could call it reckless negligence. Traffic flow is everything. They are clearly happy knowing that current breaches of air quality that are plunging on their watch are killing our kids. The solution is to make cars travel quicker - and make it a nice town to tootle around.

Is it madness in Madrid or mania here?

From Gary W

Monday, 3 December 2018

Increasing traffic flow on Hebden Bridge will reduce air pollution on Market Street, Paul. Suggesting that our elected councillors are happy with the ongoing consequences of air pollution is an unpleasant and unnecessary smear. It is only on a national (and international) level that this issue can be effectively tackled. A national diesel scrappage scheme (with generous compensation) would be a good place to start. 

From C. Mullen

Monday, 3 December 2018

Yes flowing traffic has less local pollution (PMs/NOx etc.) per vehicle per mile travelled, but if the effect of measures to improve traffic flow is to increase the amount of traffic then it may be counterproductive as a pollution reduction measure.  There is nothing new in this – e.g. vehicle efficiency in relation to carbon dioxide emissions has improved substantially since 1990, but CO2 emissions from transport have not decreased because traffic has increased.        

Traffic forecasts tend to assume traffic growth – actually the forecasts tend to assume more growth than actually happens, but to an extent there is self-fulfilling prophecy/vicious circle if transport authorities try to accommodate the expected growth and vehicles fill the space. 

An important reason why it is more cars not pedestrians /cyclists/ public transport users who tend to fill that space is that we have a transport system where it is difficult to manage without a car - often dangerous (walking/cycling) or enough to make you lose the will to live (e.g. Northern are not what I’d call life affirming).  There are plenty of reasons to think a priority should be changing this situation and properly supporting public transport /walking /cycling.

Increasing traffic speeds/removing crossings would be unlikely to promote walking and cycling – in that sense it could add help perpetuate the system which makes life difficult without a car. 

Should say though that the DfT have written to local transport authorities asking them not to remove crossings. The council is aware of this so hopefully that will not happen.  

I completely agree that reducing local pollution should be a national effort (including a diesel scrappage scheme) as well as local effort – it is very noticeable, and noticed, that national government have pushed the responsibility to local authorities. While this situation persists we have to look to local authorities to act on pollution – that doesn’t distract from holding national government to account, but that pollution is leading to illness/ early death while that political argument goes on, and action is needed by anyone in a position to do it.    

From Gary W

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

I agree with most of what you say C Mullen. The A646 through Calderdale (via HB) though already contains so many over capacity issues that already greatly slow down the efficiency of the route. So small local improvements targeted at pollution hotspots (I live on Market Street btw) still have a place (I hope) in managing this admittedly deadly issue. 

One of the problems with the consequences of air pollution is the inability of the human brain to process the concept of 1000s of deaths. Our brains are not designed to cope with such horrors. A small dead baby on a beach, or a crying bloody infant in the back of an ambulance do far more to stir our anxieties and emotions than do the rather bland sounding figure of 40,000 yearly deaths in the UK due to the air we breath. We need our rational brains to fill in when our emotional responses fail to prick us into action. 

If the first duty of government (both local and national) is to keep us safe then air pollution should be right up there at the top of the list of priorities.

From Martin F

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Gary W, I completely agree with your conclusion.

I accept (and am very grateful) that the problem does not occur very often and that there may now be such a system in place (though I can find no evidence of one) but why not have a hotline to report heavily-polluting private vehicles?

A few years ago I tried to report one  that I was following whilst driving through Silsden - a Land Rover pumping out a continual cloud of thick, black smoke. I was horrified to see a mother with a child of about two or three walking on the pavement (approaching the traffic) get a face-full of the black smoke (Yes, the cloud was large enough to envelop both of them). Having pulled into the side of the road a few yards later and having written down the registration number of the vehicle, the time and location of the incident, when I got home I rang five or six offices incl. the Police, VOSA, DVLA the Council etc. and was told that there was nothing they could do.

I wrote to the MP for Keighley who passed my letter onto Craig Whittaker who then wrote to Norman Baker, the Minister, on my behalf.

I still have my copy of the Minister’s reply to our MP in which the former says that: “VOSA keeps records of licensed operators and can trace any operator who may be reported. However, it does not extend to reporting private and other light vehicles. The reason is partly because there are only limited resources available to cover enforcement generally, including the operation of the hotline”.

So once again money trumped (trumps?) health. What about the costs of treating the mother and child for the effects of what I had to watch on that road in Silsden?

From C Mullen

Thursday, 6 December 2018

The reason I think the measures may increase traffic - and are I think intended to support an increase - is that the congestion points will be acting to limit capacity. So reducing those congestion points will be expected to effectively increase capacity of the road. The consultation talks about unreliable travel times which tends to be understood as a dampener on demand.

The project looks like a continuation of planning which tends to assume traffic growth - with marginal measures on public transport, walking and cycling. A plan setting out to really reduce traffic would likely begin from looking at public transport, walking, cycling- probably focusing on how people can get to the valley corridor viably and safely without a car - e.g. regular shared/ public transport to hilltop villages and making safe walking routes. There's all sorts of policy barriers  to that, but it is probably closer to what it would take to really reduce pollution. Cleaner vehicles (EVs/ some hybrids depending on use etc.) also have a large role, but even the on most optimistic assessments we are stuck with large proportions of conventional vehicles for decades.

I completely agree it has been and is difficult to 'see' the harm of traffic pollution and that is a real obstacle to dealing with the problem - and that is also a known problem elsewhere. It's getting a bit better - despite understanding that traffic pollution is seriously harmful to health being something that has been known for many years, it was only 3 or 4 years that ago it was barely recognised in politics/ planning. Perhaps awareness of the harm it will be like it was for smoking.