In November 2019, Camden Council formally declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency, recognising not only the threat of climate change but also the impact of irreversible damage to ecosystems, and committed to do everything it can to make Camden net zero carbon by 2030.
Active Travel (Walking, Cycling and Scooting) is a key element in making this happen. Further, there is a clear link between community health and active travel. Investing in active travel can bring environmental, health and economic benefits:
- Promoting active travel can result in reduced emissions of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), particulate matter (PM) and CO2 helping to tackle climate change and improve air quality.
- Active travel can contribute towards the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity for adults each week, which are hugely important for maintaining health.
- Walking and cycling can contribute towards economic performance by reducing congestion, supporting local businesses and more. The benefit to cost ratio of investments in walking and cycling are estimated at better than 5:1 (or ‘very high’ value for money).
Transport is the largest emitting sector of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, producing 27% of the UK’s total emissions in 2019. Emissions are still growing despite this being the easiest sector to make significant, fast, progress on. Over 3 million journeys are made daily in London that could be cycled but the switch to cycling and other active travel needs road-space to be reallocated away from private cars.
The progress made during the pandemic proves what is possible with the right political will: trebling the length of segregated cycle lanes, introducing 181 sq km of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (areas largely free of through-traffic) and 20 new Healthy School Streets where motor traffic is banned during school entry and exit times.
Camden’s Transport Policy sets some good targets and some of these have been met early but these need to be further accelerated.
There has been a 70% increase in motor traffic on local roads over the last 10 years (largely facilitated by satellite navigation systems). Measures are starting to be put in to reverse this trend; this is being done through strategic road closures to create additional Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (we prefer to call them Safe and Healthy Neighbourhoods). The proportion of Camden covered by these neighbourhoods is currently about 26%, being 12% historical and 14% recently created.
Safe routes for cycling on main roads have increased by a factor of three in 2 years and now comprise 32% of the proposed network. But there are still far too many car journeys using Camden’s roads and we are not yet at the point where anyone who wants to cycle or scoot in Camden can do so safely and comfortably and thus choose active travel. And in many areas air pollution levels are much too high.
Camden has a small number of cargo bikes for hire/loan but these are not sufficient in number for people who don’t own one to make shopping trips and other journeys carrying cargo and small children.
In 10 years (2032)
Camden’s cycle network will be complete. Everybody in Camden will live within 200 metres of a link in a connected cycle network consisting of protected cycle routes on main roads and signed secondary routes on roads without through traffic. Route finding will be intuitive because connections and destinations will be direct and well-signed.
Most of Camden’s residents will live within Safe and Healthy Neighbourhoods where people can walk, cycle and scoot safely and comfortably and children can safely visit friends and play out. Most deliveries will be by electric or human-powered vehicles and zero-emission vehicles will be used for access by those who need it.
Most children will walk, cycle or scoot to school and will use public transport for longer journeys. Private vehicles will be zero-carbon and reserved for those who cannot use active travel or public transport.
More and more people will realise that they do not need a private car. Streetspace released by removal of unneeded parking will be used for play areas, mini-parks and cycle storage. Additional greenery will have changed the nature of many streets.
Cargo bikes will be available on every street for rent for short trips needing more capacity than a personal cycle.
Air quality will be improving fast.
In 15 years (2037)
All public transport will be zero-carbon.
All of Camden’s residents will live within Safe and Healthy Neighbourhoods.
The proportion of Camden residents with access to private transport will be down to 20%.
On residential streets, private cars will be seen as ‘guests’ in streets dominated by safe and healthy activities.. As fewer journeys are made by private vehicles, traffic on the main roads will decrease as well.
There will be space for all who need it to store their cycles.
In 20 years (2042)
All the above will be bedded in and taken for granted. We will no longer be discussing the issues except as a historic footnote into how we allowed private motorised transport to dominate our towns for so many decades.