LACMTA Bike Rack with mounted bikeThere are lots of metaphors for lack of progress in the world of travel, such as ‘stuck in the mud’ and ‘up shit creek without a paddle’. No doubt ‘attached to the bank of the Suez Canal’ will become another. This will resonate with MCA members concerned to reduce our travel carbon footprint in the Moorlands – lots of interest, lots of ideas but apparently no coherent plan and definite uncertainty about the roles of different levels of government. At SMDC level even the promising topic of electric vehicles has been moved from their Travel and Transport working group to that of Energy, although that’s no reason that we in MCA’s Transport group can’t continue to push for its promotion.

The problems in the Moorlands are clear: outside the three main towns, there are the issues of isolated houses and settlements limiting the role of bus transport; steep hills restricting the possibilities of cycling as a routine mode of transport, instead of just being a sport, and the location of the district in a northern corner of the county, which militates against effective inter-town travel by bus across county boundaries. Just four buses a day between places like Leek and Macclesfield or Buxton do not make for spontaneous trips, especially when return journeys have to be considered.

However, there are gaps in between some of these clouds and we hope they will continue to widen:

One is the increasing popularity of cycling, which is an ideal way to get around and even transport small amounts of baggage or shopping in small urban areas. The huge surge in sales of electric bikes should encourage the extension of such trips in both frequency and distance. Lockdown has also encouraged more walking, opening up the prospect of active travel as a healthier alternative to car use.

Nevertheless the Moorlands will always be dependent on motorised transport but not necessarily the internal combustion engine or even personal car ownership. Better integration of bus routes (on zero carbon buses) across county boundaries should not be impossible, as well as more funding and promotion for community bus schemes, such as Moorlands Connect. It’s just a matter of politicians having the will, their constituents pushing them and pressure from Government. Bus services can also be integrated with cycle use, allowing cyclists to take their bikes much further afield. The bikes can easily be carried on external racks, continuing to leave space for wheel- and pushchairs inside. If they can do it in Los Angeles and Toronto they can certainly do it here.

If there are still occasions when a personal car is necessary, car clubs that allow flexible hire with easy on-line booking and electric vehicles may well be the way forward. Well established on the European mainland, they’re the ideal solution for families normally using active travel and public transport who want to take a family holiday or day trip to a remote location but don’t want to own their own car. They also work for those who’d like to reduce their car ownership. Such schemes, such as Co-wheels, are taking off around the country. Still small, and as yet nowhere near Leek, they will expand in response to demand.

So there is plenty of scope and lots to push for if we can coordinate our efforts and identify the right targets. At present we are in the run-up to County Council elections and MCA, having made some initial contacts, is planning to work more with the County Council in conjunction with other Climate Action groups, building on progress made with the District.

Photo credit: Yonghokim, CC BY-SA 4.0 Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International, via Wikimedia Commons