Today two of our committee members – Joe McGannan and Jon Spencer – attended the Portsmouth City Council Traffic & Transportation Decision meeting at the Guildhall. Joe was to make a deputation against proposals to narrow the pavements in North End to squeeze in more parking. I was to make a deputation to keep two way cycling in Portchester and Wymering roads in North End. The latter decision was made in accordance with our wishes but the former raised serious concerns.
The meeting was chaired by Cllr Linda Symes, deputising for Cllr Ken Ellcome.
North End Parking
Cllr Symes approved the plans to narrow the pavements in North End to create more on street parking. This was despite three deputations objecting to the parking proposals made by members of the public. This was despite objections were raised by a bus company and the Cycle Forum. This was despite the fact that nobody felt it worth coming to the meeting to support the proposals.
Sustainable transport used to be a thing in North End, back when there were sustainable businesses
London Road is the most dangerous road in Portsmouth for cyclists. We know that outside of a few London boroughs Portsmouth is the most dangerous city in the country for cyclists. That makes London Road amongst the most dangerous roads for cyclists in the entire country.
Our view is that introducing more parking can only make things more dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians. More cars reversing. More cars pulling out. More doors opening in the path of cyclists. Worse sight lines. Less space. Since 2005 there has been one fatality, six serious injuries and over 40 slight injuries in road traffic incidents on the 200 metre stretch between Chichester Road and Laburnum Grove alone (source: crashmap.co.uk).
We would argue that any scheme that might make this dire situation worse should be subject to the sternest scrutiny. That has not been the case here. We’d like councillors to commit to halving the rate of cycling casualties in Portsmouth by 2020. This decision will not help with that goal; in fact it will quite conceivably make things worse.
This bad decision has been worsened by the complete lack of transparency in the decision making. When summing up the evidence prior to announcing her decision Cllr Symes stated that the council had figures showing the benefit to business and that this outweighed any safety concern. After the meeting I asked Cllr Symes for these figures and it transpired that there were no figures. She was, however, confident that the benefits were ‘massive’. It appears that the public meeting was misled into thinking there were figures backing the decision when there were not.
A subsequent discussion with the senior officer in charge of Traffic and Transportation revealed that the sole basis for the decision was a discussion with a self-selecting group of traders. Despite the fact that the substance of all the objecting views is a matter of public record in the meeting reports pack the record of that discussion with traders will never be published and subject to public scrutiny. This is neither transparent nor equitable.
In February 2015 the Portsmouth City Council Economic Development, Culture & Leisure Scrutiny Panel released a report entitled “Revitalising Local High Streets And Secondary Shopping Areas In The City“. This report was based on extensive evidence gathering from traders and community stakeholders and was put together by a team of councillors from all parties. Today’s decision ignored that work altogether.
It seems that this decision to introduce parking has been made on a hunch. No assessment of the impact on an already serious safety problem. No quantifiable assessment of the potential economic benefit. No equality impact assessment.
A bad day for cycling. A bad day for democratic accountability too.