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MARK EDMONDS: Eco-obsessed councils are spending their money blocking roads across the UK


At 7:30 a.m., Marylebone Road in London is even more congested than usual. Seemingly endless rows of cars, taxis, trucks, and vans stretch back at least a few miles. Horns sound; The standstill is total.

Since it was built in the 18th century to catch the overflow traffic from busy Oxford Street south, this road has been one of the capital's thoroughfares, a major east-west arterial road connecting the city to the A40 to the home districts.

Until recently, it was a six-lane highway that was essential for the large number of vehicles – 80,000 a day – that use it.

Then, a few years ago, it was reduced to four lanes for private vehicles after a bus lane was installed on both sides.

And now, in some sections, it's only one lane for cars, vans, and trucks. Hence the standstill.

As these images show, hardly any cyclists use the new lanes on Marylebone Road – perhaps because the build-up of traffic has caused too much pollution for them to risk

Why only two lanes? Because London Mayor Sadiq Khan used the government's emergency powers introduced this spring due to the pandemic to install bike lanes that will be taxpayer-funded.

According to Transport for London, this is a "temporary measure" and is currently being examined. However, many believe the changes are likely to be permanent – and the capital's drivers, businesses, and residents are angry, saying the measures are crippling trade and ruining the neighborhood.

As these images show, hardly any cyclists use the new lanes on Marylebone Road – perhaps because the build-up of traffic has caused too much pollution for them to risk.

And it's not just London. The same pattern has emerged across the UK almost overnight: cities are faced with narrow streets, closed streets, and endless growls and pollution.

For example, on the same weekday morning earlier this month, Bradford-on-Avon, about 120 miles west, was also stuck in a polluted Covid-induced shutdown.

The same pattern has emerged across the UK almost overnight: cities and towns are faced with narrow streets, closed roads and endless growls and pollution. Cars can be seen in Bristol rush hour

The same pattern has emerged across the UK almost overnight: cities and towns are faced with narrow streets, closed roads and endless growls and pollution. Cars can be seen in Bristol during rush hour

The traffic jams in this beautiful Wiltshire town came after the local planning department made it their business to redesign the roads because of the pandemic.

Around £ 30,000 in taxpayers' money has been spent on a new one-way system designed to improve social distancing measures by widening sidewalks.

The result? Chaos, increased pollution, and angry locals and businesses again.

Harlees' Sian James fish-and-chip restaurant said she has lost hundreds of pounds a day after a customer drop as a result of the measures.

Meanwhile, traffic jams have gotten so bad that it takes up to 45 minutes for drivers to cross a city of fewer than 10,000 inhabitants.

More than 2,600 people – a quarter of the city's population – have signed a petition forcing minor changes. However, the town hall is firmly convinced that the one-way system will remain.

Local councils are taking these steps thanks to a post-Covid government initiative known as "active traffic".

In this way, local authorities can for the first time introduce transport systems designed to hinder driving and encourage cycling and walking without consulting local residents or going through the normal planning process, which can take years.

The Department of Transportation is providing £ 250 million to local authorities. And the planning departments of the town hall are taking up the sums quickly, introducing one-way systems, tearing out parking spaces and ruthlessly introducing “low-traffic areas”.

The effects were devastating. Just as downtown independent businesses are demanding customers more than ever, traffic restrictions have brought drivers and the local economy to a standstill. And day by day, when normality and increased traffic return, the streets become more devastatingly stationary.

The image is repeated elsewhere. In Liverpool, a pop-up bike lane on West Derby Road - a major route through the city - has caused so much traffic that residents are planning a blockade to force the city council to remove it. Pictured above is a main thoroughfare in Liverpool

The image is repeated elsewhere. In Liverpool, a pop-up bike lane on West Derby Road – a key route through the city – has caused so much traffic that residents are planning a blockade to force the council to remove it. Pictured above is a main thoroughfare in Liverpool

The figures released this week by the navigation company TomTom showed that traffic congestion in London rose by 25 percent at this time alone in the past year. "This is a coordinated attack on the highest tax drivers in the world: they have become money cows," said Howard Cox of campaign group Fairfuel UK, adding that dozens of MPs support his campaign against the new measures. Motorists pay the Treasury £ 40 billion in taxes a year – but the war against them is intensifying.

“Most transport policy advisors are young, fit, affluent cyclists with Lycra character in the city. There are no pro-motor groups in discussions. That can't be fair.

“Every single driver wants to breathe clean air too, but there is no need to pocket it, ban it or block their freedom to drive by narrowing the roads in favor of a minority of road users who do not pay (road tax. "

With the havoc Covid and online shopping have already wreaked havoc on the UK's main roads, these new measures couldn't have come at a worse time.

A new survey by Fairfuel UK, submitted exclusively to the Mail, found that 38 percent of small businesses across the UK said they were losing customers as a result.

In Worthing, West Sussex, local businesses are suffering as new Covid-19 cycle lanes have reduced the A24, one of the main routes into the city center, to a single lane, often resulting in a halt. More than 7,000 residents have signed a petition calling for the new cycle paths to be removed immediately.

Corporate groups point out that even in summer only four percent of visitors travel to Worthing by bike. in winter the numbers are even smaller.

Sharon Clarke, director of the Worthing Town Center Initiative, says, "When a city tries to recover from a pandemic, the last thing we want to do is make it harder for people to access."

The image is repeated elsewhere. In Liverpool, a pop-up bike lane on West Derby Road – a key route through the city – has caused so much traffic jams that residents are planning a blockade to force the council to remove it.

Locals insist that they were not consulted about the program and were only briefed a day before it was launched.

Liverpool's Chris Giblin told the Mail: "It has become a pedestrian obstacle course." Our local council claims that there are 7,000 cyclists on West Derby Road. I haven't seen any. "

In Bristol, the new Covid-19 bike lanes on Lewins Mead offer cyclists quick access to the city center – and drivers horrific traffic jams. Motorists say the new lanes can take up to 20 minutes – but the city council is not remorseful and more bike lanes are planned.

In Reading, Berkshire, even the cyclist lobby condemns a new Covid-19 traffic system to aid social distancing.

The Reading Cycle Campaign states that the program, which aims to encourage cycling, has been introduced “at rest” and will increase traffic flow. One street, Westfield Road, has become a race track for cars.

Many of the most draconian measures against motorists – as in the case of Marylebone Road – were installed in London, where Fairfuel UK's new poll of more than 25,000 road users found that more than 80 percent of drivers believe Mr Khan is doing something "more terrible." "Job.

"We're not against bike lanes," says Tim Carnegie of the Marylebone Association's Residential Group. “We are only against cycle paths on highways: they are dangerous for everyone.

The government's Covid-19 emergency transport powers will end next spring: after that, local authorities will be forced to conduct appropriate consultations with residents. However, many fear that “temporary” measures will quickly become permanent and difficult to question. A closed trail can be seen up in Lewisham

The government's Covid-19 emergency transport powers will end next spring: after that, local authorities will be forced to conduct appropriate consultations with residents. However, many fear that “temporary” measures will quickly become permanent and difficult to question. A closed trail can be seen up in Lewisham

“So many local authorities fell into these systems without even thinking about it. This type of congestion is hardly helping the country get back on its feet. "

In the affluent borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, the advice was really brazen when it attacked drivers.

In the UK, which is believed to be the UK's first time, motorists from outside the county who dare to drive on certain roads have been fined £ 130. For everyone but local residents, these streets are a “restricted area” – one that has inevitably forced drivers onto busy streets and causes even more growls.

Critics are concerned that this pilot is likely to be adopted by other councils as a lucrative source of income.

Further west, the Ealing Council was one of many in London to introduce what it calls "low-traffic areas", blocking cars from many side streets.

Although she is a cyclist herself, local Labor MP Dr. Rupa Huq (sister of the former Blue Peter presenter Konnie) described the new measures as “poorly thought out” and “implemented without consultation”. She believes the zones will impact local businesses and force more people to leave the high street.

It is the lack of advice that makes so many people angry. Many drivers also use bicycles – and in most cases, for good environmental reasons, they would be happy to see more cyclists on reasonably quieter roads.

However, motorists are turning against the way many municipalities have used a moment of the national crisis to impose draconian traffic restrictions under the guise of measures to contain the pandemic.

Jack Cousens, Head of Road Policy for the AA, said: “The local authorities have not spoken to local residents, they have not held public meetings.

“They just took the money. The government's intention was good. However, if the government wants people to participate in these new systems, they need to ensure a proper consultation process. "

The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has considered taking the government to court for lack of consultation – but has been advised that the Department of Transportation has acted in accordance with the law.

Andrew Taylor, chairman of the ABD, told the Mail: “Legislation gave the government ample leeway to ensure that any legal challenge was denied.

“These measures can only be introduced at the expense of other road users. The overload does not go away – it is simply postponed. "

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who may have received some criticism, admitted this week that some local authorities are "abusing" the system.

In a newspaper article he criticized councils for installing pointless one-way systems and barriers that “do not bring any benefit to anyone”.

Mr. Shapps warned them, “Talk to local residents, have it fixed, or run out of cash.” The money will be made available in installments to local councils and Mr. Shapps will have authority to turn off the tap. But many believe he should have been more careful before turning it on.

The government's Covid-19 emergency transport powers will end next spring: after that, local authorities will be forced to hold appropriate consultations with residents.

However, many fear that "temporary" measures will quickly become permanent and difficult to question.

Fairfuel's Howard Cox, however, is expecting a long fight. "There are practical ways to reduce emissions and fuel consumption," he says. “Why are the politicians ignoring these solutions? It's simple: drivers are viewed as pariahs who are demonized to the limit and are a source of easy cash for greedy local authorities. "

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