Councils Reverse 'Green' Road Closures Following Resident Complaints

Councils Will Face Legal Action Over Road Closures

Councils Reverse 'Green' Road Closures Following Resident Complaints

Councils throughout the country could face legal action from motorists for closing roads without consultation processes…

Councils Under Fire

The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) is launching legal action against a number of councils for closing roads without the usual consultation processes; something the group considers to be illegal. It’s looking to challenge authorities that have widened roads in order to create cycle lanes; or that have closed them to drivers outright. The changes follow the Department for Transport making £250 million in funding available; specifically for councils to bid for in order to promote walking and cycling.

Whilst speaking to Auto Express Roger Lawson, campaign director at the ABD, argued that local authorities are abusing their powers. He said, “temporary Traffic Orders, historically, have been used for emergency purposes, like the road’s caved in or there’s a burst water main. They’re not supposed to be used for longer-term purposes and, clearly, the intention of many of these councils is to introduce schemes that they had planned months ago”.

The ABD claims that cars are the best transport option for social distancing; and that narrow roads make it difficult for emergency vehicles to traverse them. They also claim that closures and narrowing discriminate against the elderly, who often have no alternative to their cars. Moreover, the group claims that the road closures have caused significant disruption. Lawson explained, “there are some people whose journey times have been increased by an hour within a small local area. Which is absolutely ridiculous”.

Keeping Everyone Happy

Edmund King, president of the AA, commented on the controversy. Based on the AA’s own research, he’s suggested that motorists are increasingly open to cycling themselves. He said, “a recent AA survey shows that drivers want to cycle more and the emergency funding to create more space for safe cycling is welcome”. However, he acknowledged that councils need to do to more to engage with the public before making changes. He said, “as local authorities rush to get their schemes in place, some have created unintended consequences such as increased congestion and delivery restrictions on local businesses who are desperate to bounce back and aid the economic recovery”.

Increasingly, the government and local authorities are committing to alternative means of transport to motor vehicles. The reasons are multifaceted, but largely stem from environmental concerns (especially air quality), the desire to reduce congestion and to promote healthier lifestyles. Whilst all of these things are admirable goals, millions of people rely on their cars on a day-to-day basis. Whether it’s commuting to work, taking children to school or visiting shops. Which is why any shift away from them, on whatever scale, needs to be gradual and open to public scrutiny.

Consulting the public would also help optimise the changes councils want to make in the first place. As King explained, “while schemes are being constantly reviewed, should a pop-up cycle lane cause more trouble than it is worth, councils should not be afraid to act. Making adjustments to the initial plans might benefit everyone and they should not be afraid to remove the lane completely if it simply isn’t working.”

A Just Transition

Today, the phrase ‘just transition’ is popular when talking about the phasing out of a particular industry. For instance, politicians often speak of creating a just transition away from fossil fuels; allowing workers in unsustainable industries to re-skill and find work elsewhere. A ‘just transition’ towards cycling and walking, then, would potentially involve making gradual changes; engaging with local communities and, just maybe, giving local councils more time and flexibility in using their funds. The result would be better roads for everyone – including motorists.

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