In early February 2019 RBC received a petition from 798 residents urging the Council to declare a Climate Emergency. A motion was moved at Council on 26 February 2019 confirming that the Council believed the world was now in a ‘Climate Emergency’ and committing the Council to play a full role in achieving a carbon neutral Reading by 2030.
The Council subsequently instructed its officers to identify measures which could accelerate the timescale for reducing carbon dioxide emissions to zero by 2030, and ensure that forth-coming revisions to the Local Transport Plan and Climate Change Strategy, and any other relevant policy statements, reflect the urgency of the motion.
RBC has now started formulating its Transport Strategy to 2036 – that’s a timescale that takes us six years beyond the zero carbon date target. The Council’s early consultation on its embryonic strategy floats ideas such as a charging scheme for private cars and reallocating road space to sustainable forms of transport.
In our response to the consultation we argued that a sustainable urban transport must include a large proportion of trips being undertaken by bike. Such an urban transport system is not a utopian fantasy – in Copenhagen 62% of residents choose to bike to work or place of study.
To help bring cycling to a greater proportion of Reading’s residents we have suggested that money from congestion charging be used to fund a network of e-bikes hubs, along with the associated infrastructure to encourage would-be cyclists to use them without fear of motor traffic.
As a general observation it is not in the nature of Local Authorities to do things quickly, or to implement measures that will be unpopular (at least in the short term) with a significant number of people. However, if the Council is serious about the Climate Emergency both of these things will be necessary.
The initial consultation on the Transport Strategy closed in September and the Council should now have provided feedback on the consultation and started writing the new strategy. This should be ready in spring/summer 2020.