Swale Active Travel Strategy - initial discussion
Committee Members are asked to come to the meeting with ideas on how the Council could promote a modal shift in transport, away from personal car use.
The Chairman introduced a discussion asking for ideas on how the Council could promote a modal shift in transport, away from personal car use, for a variety of reasons including improving air quality, reducing congestion, climate change and health reasons.
A number of points were made which included:
· Bus services: improvements were needed to buses and frequency of services which had declined in recent years; recognition that services needed to be viable; did the council have any powers to run bus services, referring to a service previously provided by Maidstone Borough Council? Could bus services run on a continuous loop? Could there be different frequencies at different times of day or on certain days? Could taxis be used as an alternative to buses when there was low demand? Can buses and trains work together more (for example a single ticket for one journey).
· Electric cars: how could their use be promoted in the town?; encouraging developers to include charging points; the Council could set an example by having a fleet of electric cars;
· Improvements were needed to public footpaths and pavements to make them more attractive to use and to link different areas;
· It was recognised that a lot of the work would require input from Kent County Council (KCC) and members asked whether the effectiveness of the Swale Joint Transportation Board could be improved;
· Identifying why car journeys were required (for example lack of local shops) and incentives to encourage people to walk; stopping parents from dropping their children at school (such as vehicle exclusion zones and/or a ‘no kerb parking ban’), and the need to stop cars parking on pavements;
· The need to improve broadband in some areas, but it was recognised that an impact of on-line shopping was decreased footfall on local high streets;
· Encouraging flexible working arrangements, such as working at home, which would reduce congestion;
· Ways to make the cycle network better and safer, encouraging reduced speed limits (such as ‘20 is plenty’), joining up the ‘missing links’ and stopping cars from parking on cycleways;
· The need to consider alternative methods of travel (for example, such as a metro railway system) but there was acknowledgement that resources were limited;
· Train services - ways to get commuters from villages to train stations without driving; the impact of the high speed link on local train services and whether the Government could be lobbied to make improvements?; ways to encourage train use where parking facilities were limited (such as on the Isle of Sheppey);
· The need to consider ways to encourage ‘active travel’ such as cycling and walking; and for education such as cycling proficiency and green cross code awareness;
· The need to identify the problems, the reasons for the problems, whether they were necessity or choice and what the Council could do about it (in terms of power and/or influence) taking into account limited resources available;
· KCC had an active travel plan and it was suggested that contact should be made with them to ask how the Council can be involved in their discussions and work on this area.
The Chairman thanked Members for their contributions and suggested that further work was required to identify where the Council could influence others such as the Swale Joint Transportation Board, KCC and the Quality Bus Partnership; and ways in which the Council could look to make improvements to encourage alternatives to use of the car via the Local Plan review (such as improving cycle networks).
It was suggested that the Cabinet should be asked to consider feedback from the meeting, and to report back to a future PDRC meeting regarding what the Council could do in terms of its powers; where the Council could influence others; where the public could be encouraged to change their habits in terms of travelling by car; and how much budget would be allocated to this project so that options could be prioritised.