by Alan Baldock
International Car Free Day will soon be here again…I can hear the groans from drivers already!
Just more tree-hugging, do-gooders trying to stop us from getting to where we need to go.
But bear with me please: there is a serious point to all this. This year’s car-free day will be on Saturday, September 22 and I’m going to issue a little challenge to you all.
It will be something everyone, young, old and in-between can get involved in and quite possibly kick start a change for the better in Canterbury in years to come.
We all know that travelling around our city during rush-hour is going to be a nightmare nine times out of 10.
If we are honest with ourselves we also know why: too many cars on the road during peak times.
Lots of those cars queuing alongside us will be on the school run or commuting to work locally and London via Canterbury West railway station. Many of course will also be crossing Canterbury to onward destinations. That is the way it is now and has been for generations, but does it have to be like this?
Suppose you had a reasonably hassle free way of getting into Canterbury for work, school or the train and you could leave your car at home or at a park and ride base – would you use that alternative?
So here’s the challenge. We want your help on Friday September 21. If you normally commute by car into the city could you plan your journey that day so that you don’t bring your car into the centre.
It might be arranging a car share or a lift or doing the school run with a neighbour. Perhaps it’s the idea of walking or cycling that needs a push, no pun intended, and finding out if it could work out for you.
The bus or park and ride might be a possibility, but how confident are you that you’ll get in on time? Friday, September 21 could be the day to check that out.
We are sure that a lot of people will take up this one-day experiment together with their work colleagues, friends and family.
For some the journey will prove impossible without a car, for others they will bite the bullet, their day will be a revelation for sure, be that good or bad. But all importantly it will be a chance for anyone who wants to be involved in solving the congestion blighting our city to at least consider, and better still try out, the alternatives on offer. This is a chance to start thinking differently.
Let us know what happens. Get in touch and tell us how your alternative travel day went. Did it work? How difficult was it? Did you find it impossible? And most importantly what are your ideas?
Tackling the reality of Canterbury’s congestion and pollution must be embedded in the policies of Canterbury’s next city council.
The current Conservative administration has not made much progress. It is planning to spend millions of pounds on a city centre car park to drag in even more rush-hour vehicles.
It is allowing thousands of homes to be built on the edge of the city without an imaginative and effective transport infrastructure. Quite simply, on transport it is a dead-end council heading up a dead-end road with no sense of where it is heading or what the ultimate destination is.
So let’s give our local leaders some good alternatives to using a car to commute into the centre of Canterbury.
We hope that with your amazing support the experiment on September 21 will give a little bit of insight into how the alternatives work. That’s something any council would be crazy not to consider.
Alan Baldock is a councillor for Northgate ward and is the leader of the Labour group on Canterbury City Council. He lives and works in Canterbury