The national news media are finally waking up to the damaging road closures caused by Grant Shapps’ directives encouraging local councils to promote “active” travel and deter motor vehicles.
The Telegraph headline today was: “Councils reverse street closures after backlash to ‘green’ scheme”.
They report proposals were abandoned in Harrow. Councillor Paul Osborn, the leader of Harrow Conservatives, said the suggestions “had not been particularly well thought through” and pointed to an online consultation that attracted 1,192 comments from concerned residents.
“There’s no real demand from residents. Lots are, in fact, against the schemes. So they just end up being taken away anyway, and wasting a lot of money in the meantime,” he said.
The Daily Mail headline today was: “How eco-warriors are using Covid as an excuse to drive cars off the road: Councils are closing roads but creating more cycle lanes, piling new agony on shops… all under the guise of saving us from the virus”.
Under photographs of Manor Lane, Lewisham and Oxford, the article includes: “They’re justifying this as a way of helping the city out of Covid,” the veteran hotelier and restaurateur Jeremy Mogford says. “The truth is that it’s going to make it far more difficult”. Besides the bus gates, planned new parking and loading restrictions and further pedestrianisation would create still more pressure on trade, he says.
“It’s as if the extreme end of Extinction Rebellion has got some hold over the policy-makers. They’ve become zealots – they just don’t want motorised vehicles”.
The article continued: “Understandably, we are witnessing a backlash – from local residents’ groups and national organisations, such as the Road Haulage Association. Duncan Buchanan, the latter’s director of policy for England and Wales, says: ‘The Covid emergency is being exploited to push through fantasy projects. People are forgetting that we need to move around – that our food comes on trucks, for example. There are innumerable necessary road journeys made every day, but we’re in danger of following a dogma that’s destroying the road network, destroying business and competitiveness, and so ruining people’s lives. Roads are functional places where we connect with each other, and they need to be managed for all users’ benefit – not just cyclists. The Government needs to remember: this isn’t being driven by ordinary people, it’s totally alien to them. It’s artificially constructed congestion created by people who don’t care about ordinary citizens’ lives”,
Even the BBC reported on road closures last week in London.
It is certainly true that there is an aggressive faction of environmental campaigners who would like to see all motor vehicles banned. They simply do not understand the needs of numerous people who cannot walk or cycle far, or need to carry goods or tools. Motor vehicles are an essential element in the travel options of a large percentage of the population and have contributed enormously to our financial wealth and business activity in the last 100 years.
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