Aireborough is suffering from chronic traffic congestion; the A65 in particular is a tidal river of noise and fumes. Not only is there commuter congestion, but also local congestion, especially at weekends. This unhealthy situation is statistically proven by the WARD A65 traffic report from Met Engineering, and highlighted in our recent qualitative research on Living in Aireborough, for the Neighbourhood Forum.
Living in Aireborough, showed that in each of the three townships, Guiseley, Yeadon and Rawdon, traffic congestion, its causes and effects are detrimentally affecting wellbeing in the area. Roundabouts, traffic lights, and crossing need rethinking; rat runs, inappropriate use eg heavy traffic routed down Green Lane, parking problems and deteriorating road surfaces need to be acknowledged as outcomes. In some places, such as Apperley Lane, Rawdon, and the top of Yeadon High Street, you can wait for 10 minutes just to cross the road – for the young and elderly that can be terrifying.
The worst of it is, that the volume of traffic and lack of investment in footpaths, cycle ways and connectedness makes cycling, walking and use of buses so unattractive, that it actually increases the use of cars. It also affects the use of community facilities; for example, mothers dislike taking their children to play in Nethermoor Park, as the thundering of lorries going by makes the experience thoroughly unpleasant.
The answer to these issues, outlined by a Leeds Council spokesman in the Wharfedale Observer at the start of the month was, “ultimately, we feel the best way to reduce congestion is to encourage more people to use public transport. That means giving people more choice and new options for leaving their cars at home, and using buses, trains and bikes. The quality bus corridor is just one of a range of initiatives to alleviate congestion on routes in the north-west of the city. This will make a real difference to commuters using services throughout this corridor”
So, is this the answer? Let us see:
The quality bus corridor on the A65 will end at Kirkstall. It is designed to get buses into the City of Leeds without reducing the road available to cars – it will have no effect whatsoever on the congestion at Horsforth Roundabout, Rawdon Lights, Henshaw Lane, or the people trying to get from say, Hawksworth to Guiseley Town Gate. Does this answer come from someone who really does know the situation, or someone who sees Aireborough as the outreaches of the City solar system?
The buses in Airborough use the same roads as cars – in a recent meeting of Guiseley and Aireborough Forum dedicated to issues with local buses, a packed, and angry, audience described the nightmare of bus travel. Infrequent and relatively expensive buses, that took forever to get to destinations, and often missed out parts of their routes, giving a poor customer experience with less than spotless conditions and indifferent drivers. In addition, there are vast areas of Aireborough totally disconnected by bus from other areas, or even from any bus. Does this sounds like it is giving people a choice for leaving their cars at home?
The trains are already over capacity at peak times, the station car parks and surrounding streets are full to overflowing – and are now seriously affecting local traders as inadequate and piecemeal parking restrictions just move the problem to a different place. Coaches cannot be added because of the length of platforms, and more trains cannot be scheduled because signalling capacity has been reached. Perhaps the Leeds spokesman would like to explain how ‘more people’ are going to be able to choose train travel, unless they are prepared to sit on the roof, and hang off the sides, Bombay style.
As for bikes! Leaving aside the point of whether these are public transport bikes or not, where is the investment in cycle lanes, that will make this mode of transport a safe option for more people?
What is needed is a total rethink of the traffic system and flows around Aireborough; innovative solutions and investment in the infrastructure that will allow “more choice and new options for leaving their cars at home“. For example, Otley and Yeadon Councillor Ryk Downes is keen to see a trial of the tram-train on the Wharfedale Line, to increase rail capacity. The Aireborough Neighbourhood Plan could design a network of cycle routes that would then need investment to implement – local employers have indicated a willingness to support such an initiative. First and Metro need to be encouraged to do more than just ‘consult’ to solve some of the many issues with bus services – a simple investment in bus stop electronic information boards would be as start. Other suggestion from ‘Living in Aireborough’ include a rail link to the Airport, an underground carpark, and a by-pass. Meanwhile, just outside the area, the Arthington Station Action Group is still fighting to overcome the issues and get a new railway station; which would alleviate some of the pressure on Guiseley, Menston and Burley. And, what of the radical solution of encouraging more local employment, so that people live and work in the same area and thus do not have to commute? We don’t just need a transport strategy, Aireborough needs its own economic growth plan as well. The Government may think more house building will kickstart the UK economy, but it is going to do the opposite for Aireborough without some serious consideration and planning for consequences.
What Aireborough, and indeed Menston and Wharfedale, absolutely does not need is a further 2,300 houses, as planned for by Leeds; each of them likely to incur around 8.48 vehicle trips per day. (Data from a 2010 Traffic Study on new homes in the Bradford District.) The old model of suburban living with cars, is dead, defunct – the ‘spokesmen in Leeds’ have to get more ‘with it’, and we have to help them do it. Gridlock is not a sustainable option.