The great challenge of our time is to transform the economy so our activities no longer contribute to overheating the planet, depleting nature and harming people. It touches almost everything we do – our jobs, the food we eat and where we holiday.
Faced with change on such a scale, it is difficult to know what to do. What does a world in which we live in balance with nature look like? How do we make it a reality?
Some pieces of the picture are fairly clear and generally agreed upon. Walking and cycling are low-carbon, cheap and convenient modes of transport for local trips. So, we need a network of safe routes everywhere, including to village schools, shops and travel hubs. The Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) greenways are a start, but need to be delivered with much more urgency.
There is less consensus on other pieces of the picture: Will trams or electric buses form the backbone of transport in and around Cambridge? What (new) taxes will support a comprehensive public transport network? Will club/rental cars become the norm, instead of owning or leasing a car?
Although politicians are mostly eager to get started on meeting the climate challenge, they are still almost entirely preoccupied with solving historical problems: Where to build more houses? How to reduce road congestion? That’s why GCP is progressing plans to build more car parks and new roads for buses; the Combined Authority, to dual the A47 and A10; and Highways England, to finish dualling the A428. These will increase carbon emissions and car-dependency.
The GCP Executive Board meets on Thursday 30 September to consider recommendations on the City Access Strategy. The best decision it could make is to commit to building a comprehensive network of safe walking/cycling routes and travel hubs; fund the proposed large expansion of bus services; initiate the introduction of a Workplace Parking Levy; and call for ideas on how to:
- prioritise walking, cycling and buses over private transport;
- redesign the bus network;
- reduce delivery-vehicle miles;
- repurpose city centre car parks.
These will decrease carbon emissions and car-dependency.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 29 September 2021.