There could be 200m fewer car journeys on the road if residents resisted using their cars for just one day a week. That’s according to The North East Combined Authority whuich claims the ambition of reducing car use will improve traffic, the environment, and residents’ health.
These figures form part of the Authority’s ‘Making The Right Travel Choice’ strategy which aims to have people reduce their car use one day a week in favour of walking, cycling, or public transport. A consultation was recently concluded, involving 927 members of the public as well as businesses and stakeholders, which found popular support for the ambition.
Councillors were informed that some members of the public thought a higher target could also be achievable with improved infrastructure. Residents were keen to see improvements to the cycling and walking networks, and more affordable public transport.
Councillors were told more active travel may also tackle growing physical inactivity in the region and potentially save NHS services around £19m a year. Officers claimed the North East has among the lowest numbers of people regularly exercising in England.
There could also be a reduction in car-based carbon emissions of 214,000 tonnes a year. According to NECA officers, the subsequent improvement in air quality resulting from fewer car journeys would also prevent around 360 deaths in central Tyneside alone.
Whilst the report was met positively by councillors there were still concerns. Councillors from across the multiple local authorities, while applauding the ambition, stressed that bus services in their areas were often patchy and unreliable, so residents have little choice but to use their cars for most essential journeys.
Councillors also thought more children could be brought into the scheme with school visits to discuss the importance of reducing traffic, especially during morning school runs.
Some councillors maintained concerns that the current fleets of buses available whilst important were still possibly too environmentally unfriendly as many continue to run on diesel.