Thursday, 25 May 2017

The Red Bank Holiday Herring

We're about to have the perfect storm of a pretty good looking Bank Holiday weekend, and the usual predictions of record traffic.

Apart from people wanting a couple of days away from the rat race (and who wouldn't with all the doom and gloom), the predicted spike in traffic is, well, predictable given that lots of people will have 3 days off. Why it is a surprise, I don't know;
Whether it's the early May, late May or August Bank Holiday, the same old news is trotted out as the 2 minutes of research in the links show. As ever, when demand outstrips supply, we get congestion. That's life and we should resign ourselves to sitting in traffic if we choose to drive on bank holidays; it would obviously be daft to add capacity to deal with a few "get away" days a year.

The bank holiday getaway is a red herring because the real story is about the Government's continuing obsession with building road miles on England's strategic network (and the devolved administrations are just as bad) because we know for a fact that this induces more traffic. Beyond the strategic network, people are going somewhere and when they hit towns and cities, there generally is not commensurate road and car park building going on. We know what happens there, we have people sitting in traffic (on the buses too), walking and cycling is awful and most people in power can't escape their own limited thinking.

It's the old personal mobility conundrum in that the easier we make it for people to travel, the further they can travel in the same time. The UK obsession is that roads equal mobility and they are intrinsically tied to economic growth. The downsides are downplayed, ignored or frankly, lied about - just look at the air pollution crisis.

Mobility can be great if we're going to visit a new place for a holiday and in many ways, the stress of the journey is soon forgotten as we slip into the pool, sip our beer or just forget about the daily grind. But for every day journeys, most people are not given a choice; their option is to either run a car or - well if they can't afford to run a car or overpriced public transport, or they don't/ can't drive then few leaders are bothered about them.


  1. Ditto Bank Holiday railway engineering works. Then journalists of course desperately hoping it will overrun on Tuesday morning. A nice change therefore to have BA airport chaos.

    1. Yes, BA was interesting; the perfect storm of lots of people moving and a problem!

  2. ‘Get away’ days are a bit of a ‘red herring’ for current [vehicular, by necessity rather than preference] cyclists, too. We just overtake all the motoring ‘congestion’ as though it wasn't there. SRN, or otherwise. To a first approximation, our journey times are completely unaffected by it. In some ways, I find it much more pleasant than having the speeding psychopaths graze past my elbows the rest of the time. Makes the beer (or ice-cream!) all that much more enjoyable ☺.

    Yes; I realise this ‘choice’ is not considered an ‘option’ by the vast majority of people—at any time. No; it is not an argument for retaining the status quo or continuing the current trajec⋅tory. But it is an argument for either banning motor vehicles from existing roads on bank holidays (difficult to enforce) or providing a comprehensive, nationwide, properly-built, fully-protected cycle network available ~365–6 days per year. I get the impression that you have a bit of a blind-spot regarding active travel for anything other than very short & local & frequent journeys and an unwillingness to seek anything other than the lowest-hanging fruit. What is your proposed solution?

    1. My proposed solution is to get towns and cities working for the journeys 66% of people are making journeys of less than 5 miles. That will get the greatest mode shift;

      Intercity routes are also needed, but without decent town and city provision, then it's going to be awful for most people at each end.

      Cambridge is a good UK example of doing a reasonable amount of city work and then looking at connections to outlying villages, although that's really an extension of Cambridge travel than intercity.

      I don't think I have a blind spot, I think I am being realistic to say that with the data we have on travel, the sub-5 mile trips should be targeted.