Lendal Bridge traffic ban will make York a more pleasant place to live

Photograph: Allan Harris on Flickr
22 Aug 2013 @ 9.50 am
| Opinion
Reduce traffic, improve York: Lendal Bridge. Photograph: Allan Harris on Flickr
Reduce traffic, improve York: Lendal Bridge. Photograph: Allan Harris on Flickr

Yesterday we published the case against the Lendal Bridge traffic ban. Today Simon Wallace puts the case in favour


York has a problem with traffic congestion. I think a sensible solution would be to re-build Lendal Bridge as a dual carriageway and to knock down the Minster. That would make it much easier for cars to get across the river to wherever they need to be.

Or, put another way, would you prefer your doctor to prescribe invasive surgery that expanded your arteries or some pills that reduced your blood pressure?

Being responsible is inconvenient, recycling rubbish is inconvenient, putting on a jumper instead of turning up the thermostat is inconvenient, getting on a bus is inconvenient, saving the planet is inconvenient.

Of course there are exceptions, there always are, like speeding: who cares what the police think when you are rushing your wife to hospital as she is in labour? And of course, yours is the most valid exception.

How on earth did we survive before cars though? Why has getting somewhere else become the most important thing in our lives?

Family, work, friends, shopping, travel. There are many reasons why we need cars, and why we need to travel so much, but consider how we survived before cars; why did we not need to get somewhere else? Now ask why we do not have as much sense of community as we once did.

How much business has been lost in Stonegate since it was pedestrianised in 1971? How much business has been lost in Coney Street since 1987?

Or, how much more business has been created since cars were banned thus creating a more pleasant place for pedestrians?

This is all aside from the fact that each day I seem to breathe in more than my fair share of pollution. I love walking to work and yes, I am lucky that I can do that – but why do I have to breathe in so many car fumes?

Why do the scores of tourists who visit us by train have to spend their first 15 minutes inhaling exhaust gasses whilst admiring the Minster?

This is just the human aspect of pollution. Think about our heritage buildings and what it is doing to them.

It is not easy to see the long term effect of this but if you want some idea, take a white cloth and hold it over your mouth while you breathe going past a long line of Lendal Bridge traffic and see what colour it is by the end.

Now imagine children breathing in that same pollution. Why are we being so selfish that we make children breathe in our fumes?

So yes, shut the bridge between 10.30am and 5pm, and let’s have many months of people moaning about how congested the roads are. Then we can start solving the congestion problem.

Lower the blood pressure, not widen the arteries.



9 thoughts on “Lendal Bridge traffic ban will make York a more pleasant place to live

  1. Traffic levels in the city centre since 2006 have *fallen* overall, and peak-time traffic has remained *static* (York City Council Low Emission Strategy 2012).

    There may be reasons for closing Lendal Bridge, but the bogeyman threat of ever-rising traffic levels in the city centre doesn’t seem to be one of them.

  2. Perfect; there is no congestion problem so let’s do nothing. I am no politician, nor would I advocate doing something ‘just because’. I do, however, believe that we have responsibility to make this world a better place for future generations, instead of taking what we can and ‘to hell with anyone that suggests we try and tackle these things’. So if you think that the closure is in deed ludicrous, then tell me how you will make a difference for the benefit of future generations with regard to congestion. ps If your argument is based on ‘supposed’ lost business etc. then let the closure happen and I will accept your measured empirical evidence to the contrary and I will say no more.

  3. Your argument a false syllogism Simon, memorably sent-up in ‘Yes Minister’ as the Politician’s Fallacy:

    A) We must do something about congestion

    B) Closing Lendal Bridge is ‘something’

    C) Therefore we must do it.

    I’m not even convinced about the first term of the syllogism (major premise), let alone the later fallacy. Traffic levels in York have been static for many years, according to Cllr Merrett himself, so the often cited reason of ever rising traffic levels is itself inaccurate.

  4. What I am trying to point out is that apathy towards congestion should not be an option. As I said, York is congested. What do we need to do to reduce it. Not shut the bridge, not charge, not this, not that, so what should we do? How can people be so vociferous about closing the bridge when they are part of the reason something needs to change. No solution will be ‘popular’, it will inconvenience everyone, that’s my point. Saving the planet is inconvenient.

  5. What a bizarre and oddly biased article!

    The ‘won’t somebody think of the children’ appeal towards the end shows how the author has completely missed the implications of the closure of this major through route: just because you can’t see the cars on Lendal Bridge, it doesn’t mean they have gone away. The cars will go elsewhere, routed through communities like Leeman Road, in which, unlike Lendal bridge, people live. A lot more children will be affected as a result, but the author doesn’t see fit to mention that.

    I also love the straw man argument about building a dual carriageway and knocking down the Minster *and* the straw man argument about speeding. Yes, its much easier to create a fantasy and argue against that rather than engage in the real issues. In fact quite a proportion of the article addresses points that no-one is actually making.

    But I particularly like the bit towards the end when it is admitted that the closure of the bridge will cause even greater congestion. The author’s response is to essentially shrug his shoulders and say, ‘who cares? deal with it later’.

    No recognition that this will cause major problems to ordinary York people going about their business.

    No recognition that the knock-on congestion will badly affect bus travel as well.

    No recognition that closing roads like this as an attempt to restrict car-use is completely undiscriminating – in fact it disproportionately affects those who have no choice in their means of transport.

  6. I am all for decreasing traffic flow through the city but not by blocking one of its major arteries. It doesn’t make sense, even from a green perspective.
    For me the only answer is congestion charging. But are our elected representatives brave enough to introduce this?

  7. Thank you Dave Taylor, I was worried nobody was thinking about the human cost to this.also, we are all concerned about the environmental impact large companies are responsible for but it seems to me when it comes to the smaller companies, environmental ethics are ignored and they should be encouraged to increase pollution. Why?

  8. Well, this is a more sensible and considered article, but the human cost of air pollution is massive – more than 100 people each year, in York alone, die early due to the effects of air pollution. This trial is essential to see whether cars can be diverted from hotspots like Gillygate and whether people will change their habits of driving. If more people walked, cycled, or took the bus it would improve congestion for essential car users too.

Comments are closed.