This strategy has been a long time coming. It is disappointing therefore that it fails to address the multiple problems associated with transport with sufficient urgency.
Both Devon County Council and Exeter City Council have declared a climate emergency and set dates for achieving carbon neutrality. Yet there are no targets in the strategy for carbon reductions from transport. Exeter also continues to experience severe congestion, and will continue to do so under this plan. Again there are no targets to reduce traffic levels, only ‘manage’ congestion. Poor air quality is also a critical health issue facing the city, with certain locations suffering a breach of legal limits. Yet air quality barely receives a mention.
We welcome the strong emphasis on creating a comprehensive cycle and pedestrian network in Exeter and the target for 50 percent of trips within the city being made on foot or by bike. We are particularly pleased to see an acknowledgement of the huge potential for electric bikes, building on the highly successful hire scheme. Exeter Greens have called for the city to become the electric bike capital of the South West. Electric bikes have enormous potential to increase the distance people are willing to travel by bicycle, especially those living within 5-10 km of their destination.
The aspiration of enhancing bus and rail frequencies is also welcome. However, new research reveals that a majority of people would refuse to switch to greener alternatives even if better trains or buses were available. It is therefore hard to see how a large-scale switch from car to active travel and public transport will be achieved without discouraging car use. Greens have long advocated measures to reduce car use, particularly commuter traffic through a Workplace Parking Levy, a charge on the parking spaces provided by the city’s largest employers, the revenue from which is earmarked to fund sustainable transport measures. We also believe Exeter is ideally placed to bid to become a ‘zero carbon transport city’ under the government’s new cycling and walking strategy which is seeking several medium sized demonstration cities. Low traffic neighbourhoods throughout the city, introducing a blanket 20mph limit throughout Exeter and ‘school streets’, where roads outside schools have temporary restrictions on motorised traffic at drop-off and pick-up times, are other measures which can help drive changes in travel habits.
The ambition to decarbonise transport in the greater Exeter area is laudable but is undermined by an ambition to further grow the economy and boost road and air connectivity.
And Exeter residents are being called on to do the running in reducing carbon emissions from transport. Those travelling into the city from the Greater Exeter area will continue to have no restrictions on using their cars and are not being provided with realistic alternatives to private car use. The overreliance of the strategy on Park and Ride will do little to reduce carbon emissions since driving to the edge of Exeter will barely dent emissions. Greens want ‘link and ride’ to be investigated, where a fast bus service links up a series of smaller and less damaging parking sites along strategic routes into Exeter, rather than concreting over green spaces on the edge of the city. This would particularly encourage those living in rural areas not served by conventional public transport to use buses for a greater proportion of their journey.
Finally, the strategy does not propose methods for reducing the need to travel in the first place. The Covid-19 pandemic has hastened the shift to a digital world which will continue to change working patterns. As Greens we’d like to see the promotion of home working and online meetings as a key feature of a Green Recovery.
- No carbon reduction targets for transport.
- No traffic reduction targets
- Acknowledgement of poor air quality in Exeter almost totally absent
- Negligible traffic restraint measures
- Park and Ride which bakes in car dependency in rural areas and is poor use of land
What we welcome
- Strong emphasis on creating a
- comprehensive cycle and pedestrian network
- Target for 50 percent of trips within the city being made on foot or by bike
- An aspiration to enhance bus and rail frequencies
What’s missing that we’d like to see:
- A Workplace Parking Levy
- A commitment to bid to government to become a ‘zero carbon transport city’
- Low traffic neighbourhoods throughout the city
- A blanket 20mph limit throughout Exeter
- ‘School streets’
- ‘Link and ride’
- Promotion of home working and online meetings