Today I attended a seminar on the LTP3 (Local Transport Plan – Draft 3) organised by the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) and the Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority (GMITA), at Manchester Town Hall.
I was glad to have attended, it made for interesting listening/experience. I think though that arranging it between 2pm and 4pm meant that all those that could have been interested in attending but had to work could simply not make it.
I took a quick head count and there were approximately 150 people (possibly a bit more), made up of approx 80% men and 20% women. *add sad face here*
After a quick introduction and recap of the process that the LTP has undergone to get to this 3rd draft, we were introduced to the The Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF), which
is a Department for Transport (DfT) funding stream aiming to promote sustainable transport solutions that support economic growth while reducing carbon emissions.
It’s a bid for approximately £50m worth of funds to be used towards sustainable transport strategies at local level, ranging from improving and promoting walking and cycling – active travel – to promoting efficient and accessible public transport solutions.
In essence, the aim is to get people out of their cars to use more sustainable transport alternatives, or at the very least support car sharing and reducing that shocking but not surprising statistics that 80% of cars on key commuter routes, to and fro Manchester, have just one occupant (Source: LTP3 Draft, 2010).
The bid for the LSTF is to be based on solutions that support economic growth and carbon reduction.
After the initial introduction the people attending split into three workshops: (1) Active Travel – walking and cycling; (2) Smart Travel Information and Promotion – Smart Ticketing and Smarter Travel Choices; and (3) Network Efficiency and Accessibility – Service and Infrastructure Enhancements.
Guess which one yours truly went to…
In the workshops (although not really workshops really, but more as small groups consultation exercises) there were tables of 10 people each, each table with a facilitator (i.e. a member of the AGMA and GMITA) that would coordinate and prompt questions and conversation. There was a good representation of people on my table I thought, although I was the only one solely representing ‘members of the public’. The facilitator on my table was a very receptive, and also keen cyclist himself, transport planning officer. The conversation focused mostly on how to create incentives and promote cycling for shorter journeys (i.e. 5 mile radius from the city centre) and the integration of cycling + public transport.
We were all in agreement that safety, or at least perception of safety, is a big barrier to the uptake of cycling by many – by this I mean mass cycling – and we also agreed that we DO need mass cycling, on roads, to shift the cultural mind set that is currently so car-centric.
No-one was making breakthrough suggestions, but then we don’t need breakthrough ideas, we need to create safe, direct and efficient cycling infrastructure that will make sense to many people, not just the few, that cycling IS a viable transport mode.
I share the Copenhagenize message that cycling IS the fastest, most direct and cheapest option to travel (in urban settings for sure). Even before all other aspects of health, environment, economic growth etc etc. I really recommend this article, this one and this one.
I was pleasantly surprised to hear unanimous comments that the changes needed and the efforts required are to create a sustainable transport strategy that encourages those people, who are faithful to their cars, to leave them behind and choose an alternative mode of getting about (for urban journeys especially). The people that already cycle already put up with the existing infrastructure shortcomings similarly to those who use buses everyday etc. Even though arithmetically driving may take longer to do most urban journeys (i.e. drive 5 miles to work, drive the kids to school for 2 miles etc), those people who are faithful to their car are attached to their perceived benefits of ‘freedom’, warmth or cooling and safety in their own tin box, and are less willing to give it up to something that is perceived to be less efficient and less enjoyable… i.e. from issues like getting wet when cycling to perceived lack of road safety when having to cycle on roads, amongst aforementioned cars ;>)
We didn’t find the holy grail, but it certainly was a worthwhile meeting/seminar to attend. I also had the pleasure of meeting some really interesting people from Sustrans and GMCC.
Shame about the timing, if it had been organised for 5pm maybe more interested people could have been able to make it. But hey, it was great, in my way of seeing the glass as half full, that it had been organised at all.
Apologies about the long post, but I wanted to jot down my thoughts on this.