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Adam Tranter: It’s Time To Choose Our Future!


Just 6% of people want to go back to the way things were, cites a recent YouGov poll. It’s an incredible but believable stat given what we’ve all learned about ourselves and our communities during lock down.

During months of incredible adversity, we caught a glimpse of what a greener, friendlier and more equitable future could look like. We rediscovered our local communities, re-evaluated the importance of neighbourhood and reconnected with the outdoors. While other transport modes plummeted, according to government figures, cycling saw a huge increase – as much as 200% in places. In May, according to Strava Metro data, cycling trips in Coventry had doubled versus the same time in the previous year.

Despite only a minority of people wanting to return to normal, that’s exactly where we’re heading. As we’re told to return to work and restart the economy, old habits are back. Car usage is nearly at pre-lockdown levels and, as a consequence, cycle trips are falling.

I believe that many in Coventry want a change in direction that makes the city a welcoming place for people, not just machines. Our famed ring road, the 20th century version of a city wall, acts as a huge barrier to people looking to travel to the city centre by foot or by bike.

New research released in July 2020 shows that 6.5 people are in favour of local measures to support cycling and walking for every 1 person against. Measures to enable cycling aren’t controversial like some would think; there is a clear mandate from the public to reallocate space and change the ways our towns and cities work for people.

The Local Air Quality Action Plan tackles the instruction from central government to clean up Coventry’s toxic air, in the form of NO2; one of the key contributing factors to air quality is diesel vehicles, especially private vehicles which carry the fewest number of passengers. Buses, while contributing to poor air quality, do not make a dent on the impact made in Coventry by the use of private vehicles, many for short trips. In the West Midlands, 41% of car journeys are under 2 miles; a distance easily cycled or walked for many.

For a city steeped in manufacturing and motor history, we need to be careful that we don’t sleepwalk into an electrified version of the status quo. Now, the government is rushing towards adoption of electric vehicles (EVs), despite them not solving many of the issues that combustion engine vehicles bring.

There is a much simpler solution frequently ignored in favour of high-tech solutions. Instead of driverless cars, we need more car-less drivers.

We need to use the right tool for the job and, for many urban trips, cycling or walking are great options for many people. Across the country, 68% of all journeys are under 5 miles. Nearby in Birmingham, they have around 300,000 daily journeys by car under one mile. These journeys are having a considerable impact on our communities and the health of our neighbours.

We need to be bold. Doing so will not only help clean up our toxic air but bring together a more equitable city, helping narrow some of the health and social inequalities that we face. I and many others believe that bicycles will have a significant positive impact for its residents and the city’s development.

The time for change is now!

Adam Tranter is the Bicycle Mayor for Coventry, co-host of Streets Ahead podcast and CEO of communications agency, Fusion Media. The full article was published on 31 July 2020 by The Coventry Society. Hear more from Adam when he spoke about his role as a Bicycle Mayor and catalyst for change at a recent Carbon Copy event, From A to B: Carbon Free.

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