Just over two years, in response to the city being plunged into gridlock by a lorry fire, we wrote an open letter to all councillors asking them to take action to prevent this from happening again. This is the event that triggered the leader of PCC, Cllr Donna Jones, to challenge us to come up with an alternative transport plan for the city. Our response was A City to Share, a strategy prioritising Active Travel to reduce the level of traffic on our roads.
This weekend, with the partial closure of the Eastern Rd bridge for maintenance, we were gridlocked once again and more of the same is scheduled for next weekend. Portsmouth’s road system operates at the limit of its capacity. It only takes a small event to tip the system into gridlock – that is what happened two years ago, that’s what happened this weekend and that is what is likely to happen next weekend.
So what has been done in those two years, and why are we still facing this same problem? We’ve certainly had no shortage of words of support – politicians of all hues put their names behind A City to Share when it came out. But what action have we had? Well there have been some positive changes, but too few to make a significant difference so far, and we’ve had some backward steps too.
On the plus side parking is being removed from Goldsmith Avenue and a new cycle lane added on the north side. This is an important step – using busy routes like goldsmith avenue for the storage of stationary vehicles narrows the road and causes conflict. This makes a dangerous and intimidating environment for cyclists. It would be great to see similar changes on other narrow A and B roads in the city, it would enable the creation of safe, direct and attractive cycle lanes that could really tempt people out of their cars.
We’ve also had a series of Sky Rides as well as some major cycle events. Great as these events are, though, they are unlikely to get more people to choose cycling as a way of getting around until we make the streets more pleasant to cycle on.
However, we’ve also had some backward steps, like the removal of the Mile End Rd bus lane and Portsmouth is still congested. Portsmouth still has an obesity problem. Portsmouth still has dangerously polluted air. The way to tackle all these issues is to reduce people’s dependence on private cars yet our politicians are still doing too little to achieve this.
We can only repeat our plea of 2014: “We are calling on you to act now. Plans need to be made now to fix our transport system. Portsmouth needs a plan to put sustainable transport at the heart of these plans and to come up with a joined-up strategy for sustainable transport. Portsmouth Cycle Forum is eager to work with councillors to improve travel in Portsmouth and support sustainable growth.”
We came good on our promise to work hard, delivering a sustainable transport strategy for free. Now it’s time for our politicians to really start delivering on their side of the deal.