Don’t put democracy on lockdown

In The Municipal Journal, Claire Fox asks if it is undemocratic for local areas to introduce fundamental shifts in transport policy as ‘settled’ without a proper public discussion?

The new COVID-19 Britain we’re all living in has undoubtedly revealed that there’s more ways to travel than public transport or driving.

My sisters and I have clubbed together to buy my nephew a bike for his lockdown 21st birthday, to get around London in the face of restricted tube trains. I have been on more proper walks (as distinct from frantically running from one meeting to another) during lockdown than in a lifetime – and enjoyed them. All good. But should this mean a change in transport policy? Of course not.

And yet, the extraordinary circumstances of travelling during COVID-19 has prompted a declaration of ‘a new era’ of local transport. Major policies have been declared – all without democratic debate. Councils should be outraged. Instead, they lead the charge.

When transport secretary Grant Shapps used a coronavirus briefing to announce a £2bn package to create a ‘new era for cycling and walking’ he didn’t even try to disguise the fact that it had little to do with a short-term, pragmatic re-organisation based on social distancing. He said: ‘We know cars will continue to remain vital for many, but as we look to the future, we must build a better country with greener travel habits, cleaner air and healthier communities.’

Read the full article here.