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media release
Chris Todd, Brighton and Hove Friends of the Earth
6 June 2014

Seeking free-flowing urban traffic conditions is like searching for the holy grail. The hard truth is that every urban area suffers from congestion and it’s not going away. The fact that it’s got fractionally worse in Brighton is hardly news (Argus, 4 June), given the number of large schemes built last year plus emergency repairs to North Street and elsewhere. In fact it’s surprising that congestion wasn’t worse in the circumstances.

Your editorial (Argus, 4 June) was also mistaken to talk of typical commuters and to quote the Government’s traffic forecasts. Firstly in Brighton & Hove there are no typical commuters as a lot of people walk, cycle and catch a bus or train as well as drive a car. Secondly, it is unlikely that traffic levels will rise by 40% within the city. This figure is based on a Department for Transport model which does not work well for urban areas and in any case nearly always overestimates traffic levels.

Within the city, the key thing is giving people access to the goods and services they need. This does not always have to be done by car. Indeed, in tight urban spaces, cars are one of the least efficient ways of moving large numbers of people as they take up so much space for the numbers they transport. Buses are for more efficient, while walking and cycling are far more flexible and often quicker for short journeys.

One of the biggest threats to urban congestion, ironically, could come from Government’s roadbuilding plans. Not only will upgrading the A27 scar the National Park, it will encourage more people to drive in and out of Brighton, rather than use public transport. That will drive up congestion and pollution offsetting any quicker journey times on the A27 itself.

Finally, the article says that a car commuter will spend around 4 months of their lives stationary in traffic. Yet this is nothing compared to the fact that in the city around 115 people are estimated to die each year due to air pollution. Somehow I don’t think we’ve got our priorities quite right.

Published 7 June 2014 : Argus

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