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TCF Programme Update July 2021

Marc Griffin, Transforming Cities Fund’s programme manager on behalf of BCP Council and Dorset Council, gives an update on the £100m+ investment in sustainable transport improvements across south east Dorset and explains why climate-friendly infrastructure is integral to the future of travel.

Marc Griffin - Sml

Transport is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the UK1, with its high levels of air pollution having a detrimental impact on people's health.  South east Dorset is particularly affected and BCP and Dorset councils have both declared climate and ecological emergencies2.  Locally, our poor transport network means we have some of the most congested roads in the UK.

Swapping just one car journey a week for walking, cycling, or taking the bus would have a significant impact on personal carbon emissions3.  But people need decent alternatives to the car – well connected, safer walking and cycling routes and reliable, prioritised bus services – before they’ll change their travel habits.

That’s what the £100+million of funding, secured largely from central government through the Transforming Cities Fund, has been ring-fenced to do.  An impressive network of 78km of new cycle lanes, walking routes and bus improvements is planned across the region, connecting major housing, employment and retail centres.  It will transform the way people can get around locally.

Our ambitions are bold and challenge the status quo. It’s not about banning cars.  It’s about giving people attractive alternative travel options, particularly for those shorter journeys to work, school and leisure facilities. We want to create greener, healthier and better-connected ways of travelling, now and for generations to come. 

Construction of new cycle lanes, walking routes and bus improvements are already underway on Leigh Road, Whitelegg Way and Upper Gardens, and due to start imminently at Kings Park. It marks the start of a remarkable journey that will dramatically change the way we’re able to travel. 

Our goal is that by the end of 2023 we will have a network of safe, sustainable travel options that will have a powerful, positive impact on south east Dorset. They will help to promote active and climate-friendly travel choices, and improve road safety, traffic congestion and levels of air pollution. It’s all part of our councils’ wider Transforming Travel plans to revolutionise how we all get about, including the work on central government led initiatives such as Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans, and our local Active Travel and New You campaigns.  It’s just the start of a long-term policy shift at a local, national and global level to provide safe, environmentally friendly travel alternatives to the car.

People feel passionately about the plans - over 27,000 viewed our proposals to revolutionise local travel.  Here’s answers to some of the most popular questions and comments we received.

Will people actually use the new cycle paths?

Safety is one of the biggest concerns preventing people from cycling on busy urban roads. Bournemouth is sadly one of the worst places in the UK for cycling road casualties.  Once cycle paths are built, based on evidence, people will use them.  A report4 earlier this year showed that where cycle infrastructure was added, cycling increased up to 48 per cent more than in cities that did not add cycle lanes. The TCF programme will provide a network of safe cycle lanes, separated from traffic, offering refuge for cyclists and allowing the traffic to flow more freely.  Cyclists should, of course, use cycle lanes wherever possible.

Building new cycle lanes and walking routes means roads will become too narrow for cars and vehicles.

Not at all. There is a standard minimum width a road must be to ensure all vehicles, including emergency services and lorries, can still use the road safely (Department for Transport guidance). Our programme strictly follows these rules and all schemes undergo safety audits to ensure that what is being designed will be safe for all road users. 

Is this a good use of local council money? Shouldn’t it be spent on more important things?

Central government is funding the majority of these improvements, not local councils. South east Dorset was one of just 12 regions in the UK to secure a share of the Transforming Cities Fund. This funding is specifically ring-fenced for investment in projects which improve public and sustainable transport. It cannot be used for any other purpose.  The UK Government has recognised that walking and cycling are proper, and vital modes of transport, evidenced in a further £2 billion investment over the coming years specifically for cycling and walking and its Gear Change policy to get England cycling and walking more.

Will public feedback from consultation be properly considered? Will it make a difference?

All responses are analysed to show levels of agreement for each scheme and all comments are considered by design engineers. Where appropriate and relevant, public insight and views help shape the final design plans. 

A report summarising the results of public consultation undertaken 24 February to 31 March is available here and the report for consultation undertaken 10 May to 14 June is planned to be published at the end of August, subject to TCF Board approval.

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Reference Sources

Campaign for Better Transport 

2  south east Dorset climate and ecological emergency:

3  Imperial College London - ditching the car for walking or biking.

4. New York Times article - if you build it, they will bike! (Paywall)