Boost safety features for low-traffic schemes, Boardman tells councils | Communities

Councils must address controversy over low-traffic neighbourhoods by reframing the debate in terms of livable streets that children can use safely, the head of England’s Walking and Cycling Control Authority argued as it unveiled its first set of projects.

Chris Boardman, the former Olympic cyclist who heads Active Travel England (ATE), has promised his organization will help local authorities overcome culture wars and media disputes over traffic schemes, while also playing their primary role in ensuring good design.

The organization has revealed 133 walking and cycling projects, covering 46 local authorities in England, all outside London. It aims to provide nearly 200 miles of bike lanes and sidewalks within 12 months, and modeling shows it will produce an additional 16 meters of walking and cycling trips per year.

Boardman, who has previously worked to promote walking and cycling across Greater Manchester, said that while recognizing some people were “afraid” of change, councils should not get involved in discussions about low-congestion neighbourhoods, which use filters to limit car traffic. Traffic on smaller streets.

“We can call them whatever we want,” he said, “but it’s alive.” We want to give people back what they took. We want people to feel good about letting their kids walk to school. If you asked people if they would like their children to be able to walk to school, a large percentage of them answered in the affirmative. We’ve been asking the wrong questions.”

The primary mission of ATE, announced in 2020 and still hiring staff, is to assist councils with appropriate designs for walking and cycling schemes, while deferring funding until it reaches ground zero.

Boardman said the organization’s consultants were “pumping a lot of quality” into the projects now announced. It’s an inspection body, but the main thing we can do is help. If no design authority has an outline, we can help them design one – even do it for them.

“Anyone who has the guts but doesn’t have the resources, we can add value right away. If the council says ‘we have no room for a blueprint’, we have the leading experts in the country who can say ‘you can do it this way.’ We are coming with bags of solutions.”

ATE is also offering local authorities what Boardman calls a “cultural hand-holding exercise,” in which council members are encouraged to frame more walking and cycling as positive, rather than simply focusing on potentially negative coverage.

“I want councillors to feel good about doing things that are more difficult, and advocating for something,” Boardman said. “There’s a fear of change, and a lot of that is about messaging. But what this is about, in the end, is creating nicer places to live. Everyone has lost sight of that and they think something has been taken away. But we’re bringing something back.”

“Also, the question that wasn’t asked is: If you don’t, what happens when the roads fill up? We have an extra 20 billion miles driven around homes in just the last 10 years. If we don’t do these things that you think are difficult, what’s your suggestion? When You ask this, it stops people in their tracks.”

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ATE’s ambitious mission is for 50% of all travel in English towns and cities to be recycled or on foot by 2030, with Boardman linking this to parallel government targets to reduce emissions.

“If you want to tackle climate change, and you have eight years to do it, buses, bikes and walking are the only tools you have practically to make that happen,” he said. “That’s it. Buses don’t run unless you give them space.”

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