The Planning Expert Looks At Why Bypasses Matter To Communities
The very word Bypass conjures up visions of conflict between those who want more and better roads and those who seem to want none at all. Many of the objectors live nearby to a newly planned bypass so their views are valid and hugely important when it comes to planning a bypass.
Unfortunately for the objectors though, without bypasses our historic villages, towns, and cities would be even more congested than they already are.
Take the A46 as it approaches the Georgian City of Bath, which is an important world heritage site. Along much of its route this important road is mostly single lane in each direction so creates driver frustration as motor cyclists and car drivers compete with lorries, coaches, and cyclists for the limited space available. It is also unstable in part so requires constant maintenance.
As it arrives on the outskirts of Bath it opens into a duel carriageway and descends toward a major roundabout which allows drivers to come off the A46 and join the very slow moving traffic on the London Road which then delivers them into the city centre.
There is no park and ride scheme at this point, which is a pity because it would really help relieve congestion along the London Road and help improve the dreadful air quality that exists in the city centre. It would also help the residents of Batheaston and Bathampton whose roads are often used as an unofficial park and ride! Surely turning some of the adjacent fields into a car park would benefit everyone? It might even be beneficial to consider creating a facility further back up the A46. The buses could then ferry people on the last leg of their journey into Bath by coming down the duel carriageway and onto and around the roundabout and then down the London Road. This would reduce traffic and alleviate the problems currently being experienced.
Drivers can come off the A46 further back and thread their way through the narrow and often overcrowded roads leading to Landsdown Park and Ride but this alternative is really too far west and is far from ideal. The park and ride itself works well when you actually get to to it because drivers can leave their car there in relative security and get the bus to the centre of Bath.
Bath is a major tourist attraction and a wonderful place to shop, eat, and walk around, but as I say above it suffers from poor air quality and traffic congestion which often ruins an otherwise great experience.
Long term strategic road planning is essential if we are to cope with the continuing growth in car ownership. Diesel bans such as the one planned in Bristol might help with air quality but will do nothing for congestion.
Being stuck behind an electric car is little different than being stuck behind a diesel one unfortunately.
We need to manage our national road network better and forward plan for increased traffic in a more comprehensive and thoughtful way. Bypasses and park and ride facilities have a big part to play in this process. Building one on the east side of Bath is long overdue.
Another place badly affected by traffic blight is Tetbury, a lovely little town in the southern Cotswolds! I frequently drive through the town, which doesn’t have a railway station. The station was demolished as part of the Beeching cuts in the 1960s.
I have written various articles about the need to extend our railway network and build new stations, as well as improving the ones we already have, so won’t go into that here, but suffice to say rail has a big part to play in future road planning. Tetbury urgently needs a bypass.
Stand next to the market cross at anytime of day and you will understand why! In my opinion the mini roundabout next to The Snooty Fox Hotel is a serious accident waiting to happen as huge lorries, tractors, and cars fight for turning space with cyclists and jay walkers. Vehicles seem to emerge from everywhere.
Tetbury is a really nice cotswold town, which is smothered in antique shops, specialist gift shops, including one owned by HRH Prince Charles, many restaurants/cafes and a couple of good hotels, including the famed Close Hotel.
Unfortunately though Tetbury is affected by traffic blight primarily because it doesn’t have a railway station and doesn’t have a bypass either. It needs both ideally.
Building huge numbers of houses in the town without solving its traffic problems first is shortsighted in my opinion. What price pedestrian safety as huge trucks thunder through town? We need to build communities rather than just houses. A home is more than bricks and mortar after all. It’s difficult to build a community when its hard to cross the road at time!
Tram stops at park and ride facilities would make travelling into city centres more pleasurable as rail provides the ability to avoid congestion in a way that buses, which still use the road network, simply cannot.
I think there is also a place for commercial urban gondola systems in larger cities. They are run by electricity and factually float over the traffic, which improves traffic flow and air quality.
Medellin in Columbia already uses a very efficient urban gondola system to move huge numbers of people around this city of 2.5 million people so we know the concept works. Greater Manchester as an example has around 2.8m people so is similar in size. Would one work there? Why not?
Transport is a big issue and will only become bigger as the UK population grows over the next 30 years so lets hope that the new government gets a firm grip on something that simply will not solve itself.
The Planning Expert, December 2019
The Planning Expert is published & written alternately by Stephen & Leon Fear.