It’s Saturday around lunchtime and I’m travelling just over a mile from my house to JumpArena for a children’s party. It’s raining outside and so we’ve taken the car. However, the journey, which involves crossing the Kirkstall Bridge junction and no fewer than six sets of traffic lights, take us the best part of an hour.
More or less as soon as we turn off the street outside our house, we hit standing traffic. So, we inch our way through the various junctions, eventually hitting the conveyor belt of cars that is Kirkstall Road, where they are already queuing through the lights.
It’s the same on a Sunday. In fact, I can’t recall the last time I was able to just drive down Kirkstall Road and reach 30mph. Maybe if I go out at midnight, it might be clear. What a dream!
We’ve become so used to this gridlock in Leeds that we don’t pay it any heed. But we should.
The city council is currently discussing plans to introduce a clean air zone and now is the time to have your say. Links are available on their website.
The clean air zone will operate on all roads within the outer ring road and will charge HGVs, buses and taxis who do not comply with new air pollution standards.
The intentions of the clean air zone are laudable. Air pollution results in an estimated 40,000 premature deaths every year, in addition to contributing to increased cases of asthma and other conditions.
Congested roads and stop-start traffic create more pollution that traffic which flows. So much so that jogging next to these clogged roads has been likened to smoking. In other words, you might as well forget the health kick and spark up. Like I said, the plans are well intended.
Part of the clean air plans include new park and ride facilities in a bid to encourage people to abandon their cars, which is a nice idea. The cold, wet reality, however, is many of those commuters are busy mums and dads battling to collect their little ones or meet some other deadline. Asking them to leave their cars outside the city centre, then wait for a bus, which drops them in the middle of town, thereby leaving them with a 15 or 20 minute walk through rain-soaked streets, is a non-starter.
Something radical needs to happen, whether its a monorail on stilts, get everyone driving tuk-tuks or (god forbid) build an underground... none of which will happen, of course. So (sigh...), we should look forward to healthier but very much longer journeys.