Southampton Transport Strategy
Few people dispute the negative impacts of traffic in our cities: the impacts of noise for those who live on the main roads; the dangers; the frustration of sitting in traffic jams. And yet, as a whole, people seem willing to tolerate these impacts in return for the comfort and convenience, real or perceived. Air pollution, especially nitrogen oxides and particulates, is killing around 100 people a year in Southampton. We need scarcely mention the contribution of traffic to climate change – transport contributes 22% of UK carbon dioxide emissions.
A Greener transport system must meet the needs of the public with minimal social and environmental impact. Walking and cycling have a very little impact on the environment. Furthermore the provision they need is inexpensive compared to the costs of building roads. Therefore they should have the highest priority in the green transport system. Pedestrians need properly maintained footpaths and pavements, and a safe means of crossing busy roads. Cyclists need safe routes to cycle. In the immediate term, this can be achieved with soft measures such as the creation of designated safe cycle routes along quieter roads, the marking of cycle lanes on moderately busy urban roads, and reducing vehicle speeds in places where large numbers of cycles and road vehicles are likely to share the space. 20mph limits should apply on all quiet residential roads, on shopping streets, and outside education institutions.
In the longer-term, parallel cycle paths along the main artery roads out of Southampton, such as Thomas Lewis Way and Bitterne Road, would enable every suburb to have a safe cycle-route to the city centre. These facilities should deliver a considerable boost to the numbers participating in cycling.
Where motorised transport is used, its impact on pedestrians and cyclists must be reduced. Some quiet, narrow residential roads have become rat-runs for motorists keen to avoid queues on main roads. 20mph signs might not deter them, but the creation of Home Zone infrastructure, where motorists have to weave round obstacles like walls and trees, would make it difficult for them to speed through.
But the problem is not just a deficiency in cycle or bus provision – it is also of over-provision for the car. Southampton has an over-supply of car parking provision, which encourages people to take their cars into the city. People are less likely to drive if they think they will have difficulty parking. The closing some of the city's car parks could open up a world of opportunities - the creation of new open green space for example, or new sustainable, affordable homes. It would begin the reversal of decades of bad planning decisions that encouraged the city to fill up with traffic.