By Jon Fray for the Kingston Cycling Campaign
At the beginning of January the Kingston Cycling Campaign (KCC) responded to Kingston Council’s ten page draft Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP), pointing out a number of concerns and omissions. The Plan correctly identified that most of the air pollution is caused by road traffic and acknowledged that domestic and industrial boilers and other sources also contribute to high levels of oxides of nitrogen and particulates. Maps in the Plan show that those pollutants were concentrated on busy roads, especially along the route of the A3 and the Kingston Town Centre, which won’t be a surprise to anyone.
Road space reallocation: 10 bikes can be parked in the space taken by one kerbside car
We found the Plan to be lacking in ambition in that it did not seem to address the issues of high levels of traffic but settled for actions such as “measures to support cycling including led commuter rides, Dr Bike sessions and maintenance classes”. While we approve of these things we think they are probably too passive. Our response was that the Plan should recognise the importance of reallocating road space for safer cycling more pleasant walking and bus priority measures in order to provide the improvement in conditions that that people want if they are not to drive. Quite remarkably the AQAP did not even mention Kingston’s mini-Holland schemes and the £30 million awarded to provide protected cycle routes around the borough. There seems to be a lack of awareness even within the Council of the importance of mini-Holland schemes.
We also highlighted the omission from the report of any serious discussion of the role of low or zero emission vehicles, such as electric cars, and what the council can do to actively improve the likelihood that vehicles without exhausts are used. The nearest to this in the report was the council committing to promote the fewer than 20 existing public electric vehicle charging points in the borough. There was no mention of any new ones being installed. By comparison there are more than 6,500 spaces in public car parks across the borough. While it’s not Kingston Cycling Campaign’s role to promote electric cars – after all, electric cars take up just as much road space and can be driven just as dangerously – clearly with zero exhaust emissions Kingston Council has to seriously consider how they could help to reduce air pollution. The Government’s electric vehicle strategy supposes that electric car owners will mostly charge their cars up at home or at work. Thinking about how many cars are parked on the public highway in our borough you have to wonder whether there will be the adoption of electric vehicles necessary to reduce car emissions.
Electric cars can be part of the solution to air pollution, but where will they be charged?
We expect that the AQAP will be revised in the light of our comments and we will be looking for commitment to providing infrastructure that really will help to bring down he pollution levels.
Ref: Kingston Council’s draft Air Quality Action Plan: www.tinyurl.com/RBKAQAP