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Green MEP calls for shake-up in transport infrastructure in Southampton as cycling debate intensifies
4:13pm Saturday 1st March 2014 in News
The death of cyclist David Irving, killed when he was knocked off his bike in Southampton, has prompted a fierce row between drivers and bike riders.
And the debate intensified this week after a cyclist was knocked down in a hit-and-run at a controversial new junction layout near the Itchen Bridge.
Here, Keith Taylor, Green MEP for South East England, sets out his thoughts on transport in the city arguing that we need a revolution in the way we travel.
"Every year, hundreds of people in Southampton are injured on the roads, and almost every year people die as a result of collisions.
Every single one of these deaths is a tragedy, and I’ve made it my mission as your MEP to bring safer streets to towns and cities across south-east England.
In recent weeks, we’ve seen the end of a court case following the death of David Irving, who was knocked off his bike on Mountbatten Way.
The driver, who clipped David with his wing mirror, was found not guilty of causing death by careless driving.
As David’s death illustrates, cyclists are among the most vulnerable road users.
In Southampton, just three per cent of journeys are made by bicycle, yet a staggering 26.1 per cent of collisions where someone was killed or seriously injured involved a cyclist.
And cyclists aren’t the only ones facing dangers on the road. Hundreds of pedestrians, motorcyclists and drivers are injured in accidents in my constituency every year.
It’s also abundantly clear that collisions aren’t the only cause of death associated with road transport.
Road transport has also given rise to another killer, albeit an invisible one, which causes harm to many more people than traffic accidents.
Air pollution ends the lives of 30,000 people in the UK each and every year. It’s caused by tiny particles in the air, which make their way into our lungs, causing us breathing problems and heart conditions.
The levels of air pollution in the UK, including Southampton, are so bad that our own Government is facing legal action because it’s failing to meet European Union guidelines on clean air.
Unfortunately it seems that it’s not just our roads that are gridlocked; our politicians in Westminster are still stuck in old ways of thinking, dedicated to building more roads, proposing higher speed limits and trying to water down air pollution legislation.
We have a lot of work to do to make travel safer. With the right kind of changes, we could dramatically improve the safety of our streets.
My vision for cities like Southampton would see safety as the number one priority. That means 20mph zones across our city centres, improved safety features in all cars (something I’ve worked on in the European Parliament) and proper space given to pedestrians and cyclists.
It’s clear that we also need to cut congestion, which is not only frustrating for drivers but estimated to cost the economy £7 billion a year. But we won’t cut congestion unless we offer drivers an alternative that’s both affordable and convenient.
At times like these, when people’s wages are stagnating, train ticket prices should be going down, not up. That’s why Greens are campaigning to bring our railways into public ownership.
We need a publicly owned railway network that’s receiving the investment needed to encourage people to take the train. If railways in the south-east had the investment they needed, we could, for example, cut the travel time from Southampton to Portsmouth by a third.
We also need to see the prices of bus fares drop dramatically. It strikes me as hugely unfair that London’s residents, who tend to earn more than people in the rest of the UK, enjoy cheaper bus tickets than anyone else.
The good news, when it comes to transport, is that progress is already being made, albeit at a slower rate than I’d like.
The council here in Southampton has committed to delivering a cut in car use and a real terms cut in carbon emissions from transport.
Ultimately, this country needs to see a revolution in the way we travel. We need to invest in transport infrastructure that promotes safety and cuts pollution. Rather than investing in big road projects, which are ineffective in cutting congestion, we need to provide people with public transport options that are reliable, affordable and convenient."
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