Cardiff Council have launched a consultation on the future of Castle Street – this thoroughfare in the centre of our city has seen some amazing changes over the last year but there is now a danger that progress could be reversed.
In March 2020 it was a four lane dual carriageway, clogged with traffic that produced illegal levels of air pollution, but last summer it became a pedestrianised outdoor café area. It’s now a road open only to buses and taxis, alongside a new protected cycleway.
We think that taking cars off this street was a great move and has made our city centre healthier, cleaner and altogether a nicer place to be. However, not everyone agrees with us. There is a lot of pressure to open the road to cars again, hence the consultation.
The council are putting forward two options:
Option 1: All Traffic – 3 lanes. Private cars permitted.
- Key features: a remodelling of the lane allocations, with one lane in each direction for general traffic, a westbound bus lane, wider footways and a bi-directional cycleway.
Option 2: Bus & taxi only – 2 lanes. No private cars permitted.
- Key features: a remodelling of the lane allocations, with buses, taxis and deliveries only permitted in the section of carriageway outside the Castle (loading and access details on supplementary information page 5), considerably wider footways on both sides and a bi-directional cycleway
The council’s consultation is not a straight yes or no to more cars in Castle Street, it allows a choice of level of support for each option and asks respondents to give their reasons for their choice.
Reasons why option 1 will bring no benefit:
- No level of air pollution is safe, option 1 offers an estimate of air pollution that is only just below the legal limit, that is far too high.
- The presence of cars will inevitably lead to congestion at peak periods, delaying buses and making walking and cycling less safe and convenient.
Reasons why option 2 will bring considerable benefit:
- The castle is an emblematic feature of our city, it should be possible to access it without having to dodge a constant stream of traffic, emitting fumes and noise.
- The council is committed to reducing car journeys and promoting a shift to sustainable travel. To achieve that we need to make travel by car less convenient than walking, cycling and public transport. This means we should not be giving the private car the same access to the city as the more sustainable modes.
- There is lots of evidence that car free shopping areas are more commercially successful. Our city centre shops really need that boost at the moment.
- Because of Covid and the need to socially distance, which will be with us for some time, it is essential that pavements are widened.
- Bus routes through the city centre will not be held up by traffic congestion.
It’s a well established theory that in order to persuade people out of cars and onto bikes two basic things need to be done, preferably at the same time: 1) make it more convenient to cycle, and 2) make it less convenient to drive. Option 2 does both.
There is also the inconvenient fact that the concept of induced demand shows that increasing the space for cars results in more people driving. In this case using a car for trips that could easily be walked or cycled.
Something else to consider is that Cardiff Council have declared a climate emergency, and seeing as transport remains the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the UK, accounting for 34% in 2019, this decision is a real test of the council’s commitment to the environmental emergency.
We have to ask ourselves: why is it that the default purpose of Castle Street is as a conduit to move cars from one side of the city to the other? A distance that easily be cycled, given the right environment. To people in the city centre the are no tangible benefits to this, and multiple disbenefits, as listed above.
Cities all over the world are taking the opportunity to address the assumption that valuable city-centre space, by default, is dedicated to the movement and storage of private motor vehicles, and choosing instead to give the space to people not cars.
We sincerely hope that the council are not treating this consultation as a referendum, and that they will make a decision based on evidence and data, rather than opinions and emotion.
How you respond is, of course, up to you but we really hope you will agree with us that allowing cars back into Castle Street would be bad for our city.
Do please respond to the consultation and feel free to use the reasons given above in your response.
You can access the survey HERE
Responses to the survey have to be in by May 10th.