Cardiff Cycle City is extremely disappointed to hear reports that the council’s cabinet meeting on Thursday will be considering a recommendation to allow high levels of polluting traffic back into Castle Street. Thursday is Clean Air Day which makes it even more surprising that the council should choose that date to bring back the cause of the illegal levels of air pollution the street suffered before the Covid restrictions.
The proposed reduction in the number of lanes of traffic will not lead to safe levels of air pollution, there are no safe levels of air pollution, and there is no evidence that the closure has led to additional pollution on surrounding streets. Indeed, according to the council’s own data, reopening Castle Street will increase Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) levels by 52%
We understand that the council is concerned that the restrictions on traffic are causing congestion. There is no evidence that providing more space for cars ever reduces congestion. In fact the opposite is true, more space for cars always leads to more cars. We therefore fail to understand why a council that is committed to reducing car use should wish to act against established international evidence.
The council has declared a climate emergency. How can it reconcile trying to make car use more convenient with an urgent need to reduce carbon emissions?
The Well-being of Future Generations Act places a legal duty on the council to consider the needs of future generations in every decision it makes; indeed future generations themselves (under 35s) overwhelmingly showed their support for keeping Castle Street closed to cars.
Given the profound health and equality problems caused by our car dominated transport system, we would question whether the council’s proposals have fully taken account of the provisions in the Act.
We fully supported the council’s programme of providing more space for pedestrians. It helped give people the confidence to visit the city’s commercial centres and increase the footfall needed by our traders. We therefore fail to understand why, with social distancing measures still in place, the council is proposing to reduce space for pedestrians in the centre of the city.
Changing the way people travel is not just about infrastructure, it is also about changing people’s attitudes. Being at the very heart of the city, the transformation of Castle Street into a haven for sustainable transport sent a very powerful message. It demonstrated that the city was serious about its liveability agenda and really was aiming to transform Cardiff into a successful European capital in the style of Paris, Amsterdam and Copenhagen. Reversing that transformation would send entirely the opposite message.
The cabinet should also think carefully about how their decision will impact on the debate that is starting on the new Local Development Plan and the perception of the depth of the council’s commitment to a greener Cardiff.
Covid is still having a massive impact on the way people travel. We need people to be attracted back to using public transport, particularly buses. Making the bus, rather than the car, the most convenient way to access the heart of the city was an important opportunity to convince people that the bus is the easiest way to get about our urban centre. That opportunity should not be lost.
The continuing uncertainty about Covid also means that modelling traffic flows is particularly difficult at the moment, a very strong argument for the council not to reverse important gains for the city’s sustainability on the basis of data that is highly likely to change.
We sincerely hope that the council cabinet will carefully consider the arguments we have made and vote in favour of maintaining the progress it has made in making our city more liveable.
What can you do?
Organised by Green New Deal Cardiff, local groups have joined together to gather on Castle Street to protest the decision. Get there any way you can for 5pm on Thursday 17 June.
We will also be sending a copy of our statement above to the members of the cabinet and we would also like you to take action by emailing your local councillors and Members of the Senedd (MSs).
All you need to say is that you do not want general traffic back in Castle Street and that you support Cardiff Cycle City’s arguments for restricting the street to sustainable transport.