Strategically reducing traffic across urban areas

This article was published in 2021, in Magazine 150.

Camcycle supports the concept of a ‘green travel area’ within the centre of Cambridge. Through motor traffic (except for buses and emergency vehicles) could be removed within this area with access only for residents, deliveries (size-restricted within limited hours), licensed low-emission taxis, disability permit holders and car park users. An improved experience should be provided for pedestrians and cyclists including widened pavements and increased cycle parking. Similar schemes should be installed in other towns across the county. [Map based on bus loop concept by Systra (2019) overlaid on a map from OpenStreetMap (licensed CCbySA)]

A newspaper article reports the installation of an experimental bus and cycle lane with the removal of car parking along the street. Another Covid-19 related trial? No – in fact, it refers to a measure introduced back in 1976. A new scheme on Victoria Avenue aimed to reduce the lengthy queues of rush-hour congestion which were delaying local bus services.

Fast forward to 2021 and creating more space for sustainable travel in Cambridge has never been more important with around 30,000 more residents and a growing climate crisis. We’re a long way from meeting the targets to reduce carbon emissions, pollution and congestion set by local authorities and many new developments and road-building projects are further entrenching car dependency across the region. It doesn’t have to be like this.

We know that congestion in urban areas is increasingly a barrier to job opportunities, so reducing car traffic would boost our local economies. It’s going to be essential if we are to meet local targets to reduce road deaths to zero and national targets for 50% of urban journeys to be made by walking and cycling by 2030. Fewer cars on the road also means nicer places to live, more reliable bus services and faster journeys for those who need to use a car. This includes people with disabilities, deliveries which cannot be switched to cargo bike and commuters travelling into towns and cities from rural areas.

Before Covid-19 hit, Camcycle had already begun working on ideas for a series of zone-based policies which would guide the introduction of low-traffic neighbourhoods, encourage uptake of School Streets and present a coherent vision for the sustainable transport of the future.

It’s now time to pick up the project, review the lessons we are learning from measures introduced during the pandemic and engage with local groups. This will help us respond together to the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan and create a shared set of policies to reduce motor traffic and shape better places for people.

It’s time to lift ideas on green travel zones beyond the pages of reports and call for action on our streets

We’re not the only ones thinking about zones. The Greater Cambridge Partnership’s City Access project proposes a Clean Air Zone within Cambridge’s inner ring road, followed later by an Ultra Low Emission Zone within the boundary of the city’s Park & Ride sites. Reports commissioned from consultants Systra on the future role of bus travel consider urban and rural loops and the concept of a central ‘green travel area’ in Cambridge. Here, active travel and smaller shuttle buses would be prioritised with restrictions on access by other motor traffic. It’s time to lift some of these ideas beyond the pages of reports and call for immediate action on our streets. Covid-19 has shown us how fast local people and authorities can act together when needed. Join us to press for bold action on traffic reduction and climate this year.

Anna Williams