Before we start: yes I know this is a personal anecdote and not a fully fledged data/evidence backed peer reviewed analysis but that’s not to say we shouldn’t ignore the experiences we, er, experience on our daily business.
I commute in Cardiff by bike. My route is about 20-25 minutes depending on how quick or not I decide to ride and a fair chunk of my commute is down the Taff Trail. One evening last week as I left work with a friend and colleague who also commutes on the Taff Trail we made an observation that surprised us both. Travelling North on the cycle path that cuts through the car park situated alongside North Road we noticed further ahead of us two ambulances leaving the Blackweir Ambulance Station. We’re a few hundred yards away from the ambulance station so there’s no need for us to take any evasive action or any change in speed at all but I remember we both made a throw away comment about the difficulty both ambulances had joining the road with blues and two flashing and sirens blaring due to the amount of traffic on the road.
The sirens dissipated into the distance, we moved on, and continued our previous conversation. Our speed travelling home whilst having a conversation is pretty low. That plus being careful around other users of the path meant that we were never going fast by any means. We were having a casual slow ride home and having a chat.
As we got further up the trail and came within a dozen or so yards of the underpass just below Western Avenue we saw two ambulances with blues and twos flashing and sirens blaring. It was the same two ambulances we’d seen earlier at Blackweir Ambulance Station. The congestion was so bad that the two of us riding at a casual and leisurely pace having a chat on our ride home from work had taken the same amount of time to travel the same distance. They had sirens and flashing lights and all we had were our legs.
Cardiff Bus, wholly owned by Cardiff Council, recently put bus fares up citing the city’s congestion as a reason. A publicly owned bus company putting fares up will only serve to exacerbate our congestion problem as people are discouraged from using public transport and towards using their cars. If we want to talk about removing congestion we need to encourage the use of alternative forms on transport: more people on busses, trains, walking, and (last but not least) biking. There are many ways of doing this, but putting bus fares up is certainly not it.
The 2011 census data showed us that 42% of people who drove when commuting in Cardiff travelled a distance less than 2km. That is mind blowing. Anyone of able body is capable of walking 2km. That’s a 20-25 minute walk; hardly a strenuous activity even for those who may not do any other form of physical activity. The reason why that statistic struck me here is that the distance from Blackweir Ambulance Station to the bridge over the Taff on Western Avenue is roughly 2km. Given that traffic congestion is a non-linear phenomena, even we can even reduce the number of cars on the road during peak times by 15-20% it would have an incredible affect on the flow of traffic. Jonas Eliasson demonstrates this extremely well in his TED Talk: How To Solve Traffic Jams.
The long and the short of it is that we all suffer as a result of traffic congestion whether we realise it or not. It’s likely that everyone will need to call upon the help of the emergency services, at some point in their lives, and I certainly don’t want to find out one day that the urgent assistance I may need has been delayed by too many people sitting in cars creating a traffic jam.