I sing the praises of cycling so frequently anyone would think I'm a campaigning cyclist, which is not entirely true. I do appreciate that we cannot go on as we are, (and have been for the past fifty years). There simply isn't (and can never be) enough road space. We've tried the simple options of bypasses, town centre ring roads and gyratory systems and they are all close to capacity. I despair at the number of times I hear that we need a northern bypass to relieve the Orwell Bridge, a Wet Dock Crossing to relieve the Star Lane Gyratory and that traffic lights need removing so cars can flow easily (without consideration for other road users).
What we actually need is a modal shift from private cars to alternative healthier options, walking, cycling and public transport. I've seen it happen in Holland and Copenhagen and it's beginning to happen in London. Firstly the Mayor introduces congestion charging, then makes huge improvements to public transport, increases the provision for cycling and changes in the way people commute begin to happen.
The one area we are losing direction, in London and elsewhere, is in the number of young people taking up cycling. I see that new bikes were the second most requested item on wish lists sent to Santa (Lego was at number one). Unfortunately young people are not riding those bikes anything like they used to. Children no longer cycle to school, they no longer ‘go out to play' (on their bikes) and they don't ride their bikes to the park promising to be home before dark. Is it possible that the knowledge they fail to gain about road use at an early age contributes to a lack of skill when they start to drive?
In making these statements I fully understand that a fair number of professionals require a car at work, and thus they need to drive to work such that the car is available during the working day. It is also true however that a vast number of commuters take the car to work ‘just in case' or even because they've never considered the alternative. They sit in the queue moaning about congestion without realising that they are the problem.
The single statistic that should concern us most is, according to Break, the road safety charity, the fact that 80% of drivers admit to making the majority of their short journeys by car. Nearly 70% of all traffic movement is of less than 5 miles, and 25% is less than one mile! Congestion costs the country £4 billion each year, a figure which could be halved if we left the car at home when we pop to the shops.
The new Tesco Express stores that have opened in the last 5 years all have car parks and the vast majority of their customers live within one mile! There are six Tesco Express stores inside the Borough Boundary; they've got the population covered.
In Ipswich we have a dilemma with Park and Ride; some are issues being brought about by the relationship between Borough and County. Park and Ride is a subsidised provision, paid for by the County who are under tremendous pressure to reduce spending. It is not an essential service (unlike education and social services) and thus can be cut and even curtailed. Park and Ride generally only works when two key elements come together: one the desire of the outlying population to get into town (usually to shop) and the lack of competitively priced parking in the town centre.
Thus in both Norwich and Cambridge Park and Ride is successful, although subsidised - in Norwich to the tune of £1 million per site per year! In Ipswich the current linked twin sites at Martlesham and Copdock (with buses running via the town centre and hospital) are costing £700,000 per annum.
In Ipswich the Borough Council are the planning authority and under pressure from local businesses and from Ipswich Central (the BID Company) in not only granting planning permission for temporary town centre car parks but also the rebuilding of Crown Street car park to increase its capacity. There are numerous vacant sites close to the town centre and each that becomes a temporary car park reduces the demand for Park and Ride, increases the number of vehicles coming into Ipswich and therefore leads to more congestion.