Multipurpose street Den Haag

We all know that transport – or more precisely the lack of it – is a crucial issue for climate change in the Moorlands, where without a car, the options are few and far between. SMDC has a working group dedicated to Transport that reports to the climate change sub-committee. MCA members have attended every meeting; the experience so far shows what might be achieved under the council’s current climate agenda. But it also demonstrates how much more needs to be done, if there is to be any meaningful effect on carbon emissions in the district.

Under chair Cllr Keith Flunder, the group has focused on using maps as a starting point for group members to develop ideas on encouraging Moorland residents to get out of their car and use their feet – or bikes – instead. One non-MCA lay member of the Transport Group has been particularly active in walking public footpaths and bridleways around Brown Edge and Endon, recording their state and, in particular, where obstacles to their use exists. He has even suggested new links for routes already used by cyclists, or with potential for future use.

It’s been an impressive exercise as far as it goes, and fits in with the declared, and laudable, intention of SMDC to involve individuals, parishes and other community groups. Perhaps MCA members could usefully make a practice of recording the state of public footpaths when they venture into the countryside. Most of us will probably have come across landowners, and not just farmers, using Covid as an excuse to block public access.

But this kind of enterprise will always depend upon whether an individual or group has the time and the energy in any particular area. And maintaining, let alone expanding, public access via footpaths, bridleways, or cycle routes inevitably runs into the massive obstacle of the legal entity that is ultimately responsible ie Staffordshire County Council. The (admittedly financially stressed) county council seems to possess neither the will nor the means to fulfil its statutory requirements in this area.

And as MCA’s James Firkins has regularly pointed out at the meetings, these efforts are good in as far as they concern greater use of non-fossil fuel options for recreation, but the real issue must be increasing the options for regular use; i.e. going to and from home for work, shopping or school.  As our photograph shows, it is possible to create pleasant areas to accommodate the needs of all transport users, even in the heart of a capital city, if ALL of their needs are properly understood by the designers.  In this example, the no-entry sign exempts cyclists and scooter riders on the sensible grounds that they take up far less space than on-coming cars. 

Gary Bentley, an independent councillor from Cheadle, has been very energetic in using the Transport working group to push his project for a proper footpath along the old railway track into the town. As he points out, this could, with safety issues taken on board, provide a route for children going to and from a couple of local schools. In doing so, it would provide a much-needed cut in the impact of the school run in the area.

But again, this is a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed – safe cycling routes for commuters and good, dependable public transport in the Moorlands. Improving bus routes was declared a priority for her administration by council leader Sybil Ralphs, but as yet, well… nothing.

The working group will focus on public transport in the coming months. There likely will be an attempt to get bus companies to make provision for cyclists looking to combine these modes of transport. But beyond that, any real action may be a steep, uphill climb.