Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
Caroline Russell talked of air pollution and other sustainable transport themes.

Caroline Russell, centre left with clasped hands, talked of air pollution and other themes related to sustainable transport.

Joining forces for sustainable transport

Sustainable Transport Day last Saturday proved a worthwhile venture, bringing together various groups of people with an interest in transport questions and highlighting the authorities’ failure to implement the Hastings Walking and Cycling Strategy which was agreed in 2014. Nick Terdre reports.

The auspices were good for Sustainable Transport Day: it was held on Earth Day, and just 24 hours after the UK recorded its first day in the industrial age without using coal for power generation.

The event comprised three parts: a protest bike ride from the pier to the railway station, an address and discussion of sustainable transport themes, and a walk over the routes proposed for the walking and cycling network in Ore Valley.

“The great turnout for the weekend of transport events shows that people in Hastings want to be able to travel in ways that are safer, pleasanter and more sustainable,” Tim Godwin of Hastings Urban Bikes told HOT, “as well as to be able to live in communities which are not blighted by antisocial driving and dangerous air pollution.”


“We’re calling on Hastings Borough Council and East Sussex County Council to make the implementation of the 2014 Walking and Cycling Strategy a priority.”

Tony Polain, co-chairman of Hastings Greenway Group, said, “I thought that all the events were well attended, with a diverse mix of people…and a different group to the ones that had been on the previous walks.

“It’s good to see so many people interested in Hastings having a usable network of walking and cycling routes.”

The bike ride involved riders ringing their bells in protest at the non execution of the walking and cycling strategy. The rider with the biggest bell – or was it the most bells? – was due to get a prize.

Then followed the meeting, which took place in Central Hall, a handy if little known venue in Station Road. Here Caroline Russell, the Green Party national spokesperson on transport, addressed an audience of about 35.

Danger – air pollution

There are plenty of allies for sustainable transport, as revealed by a brainstorming session.

There are plenty of allies for sustainable transport, as revealed by a brainstorming session.

She called attention to the problem of air pollution – about 40 million of the UK’s inhabitants live in areas where pollution exceeds legal limits. London is a particular blackspot – in just five days Brixton Road had used up its annual air pollution allowance.

A significant contribution to pollution comes from diesel vehicles, not just cars but also the very large number of vans.

Since the seriousness of the air pollution problem, with the concomitant increase in illnesses such as heart disease, lung cancer and asthma, became apparent, it has sparked a lot of community action in London to combat it, she said.

But we should also recognise that being in a poor state of health exacerbates the problem – we need to build physical activity into our daily routines, Caroline said. Most at risk are those who use cars all the time – sitting in a stream of emissions from the vehicle in front, they are the constantly exposed to air pollution.

Roads are increasingly clogged up with traffic, so greater use of public transport would help to reduce congestion. Streets should be more people-friendly and easier to cross. Residential roads shouldn’t be rat-runs, said Caroline, who, as an Islington councillor was instrumental in the introduction of 20 mph speed limits on its roads. “It caused a huge backlash but also produced a big wave of support,” she said.

Polluted railways

When the floor was opened to questions, Caroline agreed with the proposal that more freight should be put back onto the railways. But the railways run mostly on diesel traction (the southern region of course is an exception!), so they are themselves a potent source of pollution. Electrifying the railways – which the Green Party would like to see taken back into public hands – is a greater priority than the HS2 project, Caroline said.

Freight can also be moved by bicycle – in Germany, bikes are used to deliver loads to their final destination. Canals could be rehabilitated for freight transport, though the conversion of warehouses into smart flats and the deterioration of link roads due to disuse make the task harder.

How can we get the walking and cycling strategy implemented? one questioner asked. There were no councillors present to answer. Shortly after, in walked Cllr Peter Chowney, though the question was not put to him.

Another member of the audience who has researched the matter pointed out that it’s much more difficult to get people to give up ingrained habits than to adopt new ones. And the individual or family car is certainly an ingrained habit.

About to walk the walk - photocall at Ore station.

About to walk the walk – photocall at Ore station.

Testing the ESCC route

In the afternoon some 30 people joined a walk over some of the proposed sections of the walking and cycling network in Ore Valley. In contrast to the walk held in January, which stuck to the proposed greenway route, this time it took in some of the proposed ESCC network, in which roads feature fairly prominently.

The county council has basically gone for the low-cost option, according to greenway supporters. The route proposed by Ore Community Land Trust and Hastings Greenway Group is largely off-road, including stretches through woodland and undeveloped sites.

An important plank in the platform of community participation in making local transport choices was due to be put in place on Thursday 27 April, when members of Hastings’ fledgling Sustainable Transport Forum met to approve a constitution.


Posted 06:28 Friday, Apr 28, 2017 In: Campaigns

1 Comment

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  1. li’l megs

    Great article and lots of issues raised and answered. Thank you Hastings Online Times and thank you very much to all of the people who took part in all of the events.

    Comment by li'l megs — Friday, Apr 28, 2017 @ 14:05

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