With a summer of chaos and congestion on the horizon, campaigner James Flanagan explains why he has reservations about the potential of the Sturry Road bus lane to ease traffic woe.
Ask anyone what they think about traffic in Canterbury and few will describe it as the epitome of successful transport planning!
Weekdays, weekends, peak time, off-peak – it’s rare to journey across the city without finding congestion hotspots. Medieval Canterbury was, of course, built for a very different time and as the number of journeys increase so the city’s roads become less able to cope.
And if you think it’s frustrating now, wait until the impact of the Local Plan comes to be felt.
Over the next 15 years, Canterbury’s Local Plan proposes some 11,000 dwellings on the eastern, southern and western fringes of the city. That could put at least another 11,000 cars on local roads. Canterbury desperately needs a carefully thought out plan to deal with this.
If the Westgate Towers traffic trial taught us anything, it’s that this plan can’t afford to be piecemeal. Otherwise it’s like shifting sands – deal with one part of Canterbury and traffic is pushed into another part.
I have consistently opposed this plan, arguing that – among other things – our transport system and the ring road would not be able to cope.
Instead I have supported improved public transport and for this reason supported the Sturry Road bus lane, especially with 2,500 more houses in the offing for that part of the district.
However, when the scheme came to the council recently, Lib Dem councillor Nick Eden-Green was persuaded by residents that the original plans would not work.
He suggested a part time bus lane, or suspending it for the narrow stretch near the Tile Centre, or seeing if parking lost to the scheme could instead be found on the nearby superstore car parks.
In the end a fresh report was called for and a special meeting arranged. That meeting unanimously endorsed the current scheme which was also supported by those residents who came along to speak.
Inevitably, there will be considerable disruption when the scheme is put in. The work is due to start in April and last 20 weeks.
But it will be far less than installing it after the 2,500 new houses and the new Sturry crossing are built. On balance it is right to accept some pain now rather than worse pain later.
Sadly still missing, however, are joined-up bus lanes and joined-up cycle routes across the city.
The Conservative-run city council has never been good at joined-up thinking any more than it has at joining up transport links.
But the real test for this short stretch of road will be whether or not it just jams solid with traffic backing up from the ring road.
And that comes back to why I opposed the Local Plan in the first place.
James Flanagan is a former Liberal Democrat Canterbury city councillor who twice stood for Parliament. He lives in Tankerton and works in London.