Decarbonising transport – a blog from our webinar

A blog of our 'Decarbonising transport' webinar held on 24 January 2023.

Welcome and introduction from the Chair

Councillor Liz Green, Vice Chair, LGA Improvement and Innovation Board, Chair, Planning Committee, London Borough of Kingston Council

In January, 229 people attended this webinar and heard from three speakers who laid out what work they were doing to decarbonise transport in the face of the climate emergency.

The session was chaired by Councillor Liz Green, Vice Chair, LGA Improvement and Innovation Board, Chair, Planning Committee, London Borough of Kingston Council. Councillor Green set out an overview of the challenges transport poses to the response to the climate emergency, introduced the speakers and gave a running order of the day. Councillor Green was joined by:

  • Laura Wells, Transport Strategy Manager, Brighton, and Hove City Council
  • Annette Smith, Technical Director, Mott MacDonald
  • Alicia Wallis, Senior Transport Planner, Mott MacDonald 
  • Jim Hubbard, Senior Public Policy Manager, Voi.

Local cycling and walking infrastructure plan

Laura Wells, Transport Strategy Manager, Brighton and Hove City Council

Brighton and Hove City Council declared a climate emergency in 2018 and focused on transport during their Climate Assembly, made of a representative group of residents, held during the Autumn of 2020. The council is also working on a number of transport related projects, such as:

  • the development of the Local Transport Plan 5, with an initial direction of travel document already being completed. 
  • the development of its first Liveable Neighbourhood, with a low traffic neighbourhood currently being piloted. 
  • a new prioritisation framework for requests, which will speed up the process for projects such as crossings. 
  • a review of the city’s strategic transport model. 
  • work on public transport via a Bus Service Improvement Plan.
  • the creation of a liveable city centre.
  • a ‘mini Holland’ feasibility study.

The Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP)

The LCWIP was developed from March 2020 to March 2022 and aims to join up modes of active travel, such as walking and cycling, throughout Brighton and Hove. The LCWIP identified 39 strategic routes for improvement, 33 areas for improvement and 32 local links for improvement, of which 17 were high priority. Stakeholders and a cross-party member group was involved throughout its development, and it was successfully approved by committee in March 2022.

The key themes of the LCWIP include: 

  • access for all
  • integration of different projects and means of travel 
  • a clear coherent network that is widely promoted
  • green travel 
  • innovation.

The LCWIP has been built on temporary measures to Manual for Streets standards, with feasibility studies undertaken to try and unlock us much of the network as possible. However, the delivery of the LCWIP has not been without its challenges. Effective communication has been a challenge throughout the delivery, for example the difficulty of conveying the idea of all forms of active travel being joined up in the routes. Funding has also been a challenge, with various sources being utilised to deliver, including the Active Travel Fund and Local Growth Fund. The focus on a single route that was cancelled was also a key difficulty, despite the overwhelming number of successful routes.

Decarbonising Transport Action Learning Sets

  • Annette Smith, Technical Director, Mott MacDonald
  • Alicia Wallis, Senior Transport Planner, Mott MacDonald

From October 2022 to January 2023 Mott MacDonald ran an action learning sets (ALS) programme, with the aim of bringing together groups of councillors and council officers from a diverse range of backgrounds and contexts to address the challenge of decarbonising transport.

An ALS allows a small group to tackle similar challenges and meet on a regular basis, with these sessions creating a safe space for relationships to be built, best practice to be shared, and challenges to be overcome. The groups included 10 councillors, split into two groups and 20 officers, split into three groups, from across England; with each session designed to increase the understanding of, introduce examples of, and appreciate the barriers and solutions to decarbonising transport.

A word cloud was used to identify what ‘net zero’ means to local authorities, with terms such as ‘climate change’, ‘opportunity’, ‘challenging’ and ‘clean energy’ being identified as key. The topics discussed in the ALSs reflected this variety in understanding with communication, equity, policy approach, sustainable transport, internal barriers, and uncertainty all being examples of topics discussed.

A key part of the ALSs was using the group discussions to present feasible outcomes for the participates. For example, a councillor discussion around making transport sustainable for the future led to discussion around partnering with bus companies and speaking to partners with suitable skillsets to help. The outcome of this was a councillor speaking to the CEO of a local airport, who had the skills and partnerships to assist and being more radical in their thinking when challenging bus companies. A further example comes from the officer group, where the question of how to demonstrate the value of park and ride was raised. This led to the officer exploring what others had done and seeing if it can be applied to the situation.

Access blogs from our Decarbonising Transport Action Learning Sets

The role of electric bikes and scooters in meeting carbon emission targets

Jim Hubbard, Senior Public Policy Manager, Voi

Voi is the largest e-scooter operator in the UK, operating in 21 towns and cities, it also operates e-bikes. Voi aims to ‘free up space for living’ and work with cities to deliver sustainable transport solutions. They underline the environmental cost of car-centric cities, with cars being a key source of air and noise pollution, as well as a cause of congestion and inefficient use of space.

Since becoming operational Voi has enabled 21 million trips from 1.1 million riders, which has replaced 8 million car journeys, reduced emissions and improved air quality. Sustainability is a core concept explored by Voi, with its bikes and scooters being built to last, having sustainable operations and educating users. Voi also tries to be as inclusive as possible, including discounts for certain sectors, low-income groups and students.

Questions and discussion

Laura Wells, Transport Strategy Manager, Brighton and Hove City Council

Could you please provide more information on your LCWIP Consultation methodology for example, consultation on the LCWIP document itself, how did you invite responses to it, and have you conducted more focussed consultation for example localised neighbourhood/area wide consultations?

Engagement took place with key members and stakeholders to develop the document before consultation took place with the wider public. 

How much opposition there has been to the LCWIP and how the council has dealt with that?

Public and political opposition can be an issue, especially with temporary schemes. Some members wanted routes removed but the document managed to go through in its original form, keeping the document high level was key to this.

What's the split between cycling improvements and pedestrian improvements in terms of development work and capital spend?

It’s difficult to separate the two, as both were holistically taken into account when developing the routes.

The challenge we have is a very dispersed population so we would need multiple models for multiple towns. This is also a challenge in terms of LCWIPs. We have been doing town by town which is a slow and costly process and will still need to think about rural coverage!

We were fortunate to just do one LCWIP to cover the whole city, and this will be the same for the model. I know colleagues in West Sussex County Council next door to us have done LCWIPs across various towns / areas in a rural context.

How do you plan to integrate your LCWIP into your emerging LTP?

The LCWIP is already featured in our initial direction of travel document, in the principles, priority areas and proposed interventions, which focus heavily on active travel infrastructure, this will also be taken forward as we develop the document further into the main LTP5 following the next guidance from the Department for Transport (DfT).

What strategic transport model do you have and how are you using?

The old one was a Saturn / CUBE model but was very out of date. We need a new multi-modal model going forward, which will be commissioned shortly. This will then assist us in testing options and scenarios for both planning and transport. 

Could you share your safer better streets prioritisation framework? Has it gone through a political approval process? 

It's available here (scroll down to item 67 and associated documents). It went through our Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee (cross-party) last week.

Annette Smith, Technical Director, Mott MacDonald and Alicia Wallis, Senior Transport Planner, Mott MacDonald

How can rural areas effectivity decarbonise? Are the challenges different to those in urban environments?

This question came up during some ALSs, especially in terms of engagement. A good relationship with local groups, such as the Parish Council, is essential to facilitate conversations. There are also many ideas such as mobility clubs, community led taxi services and encouraging people to live locally so they travel less.

Jim Hubbard, Senior Public Policy Manager, Voi

Does the e-scooter model work in towns and rural areas?

It’s very difficult to make them work outside of a big centre, trying to make accessible as possible however. 

In addition to being an operator is there scope for private operators to help fund infrastructure?

Although good infrastructure makes the introduction of e-scooters easier there’s not much scope for this to be funded by e-scooter companies, due to the difficulty of securing investment.

Where is the electricity to power the e-scooters sourced from?

We use 100 per cent renewable energy for our e-scooters and e-bikes.

How do you account for the embedded carbon in your operation and scooters/bikes.  How many miles of scooter use does it take to get a net reduction in carbon emissions?

Voi's 'Toward circular micro-mobility' environmental report may be helpful background. I’d need to look into mileage required to achieve net reduction but I believe this has been covered by Electric Avenue / EY.

When e-scooters become legal, how does Voi propose to keep the sharing scheme model going? As many people may buy their own instead of hiring. 

We believe legalisation will lead to higher usage of shared e-scooters. Right now, it’s very confusing for people. Are they legal or illegal, and so on? Once it’s normalised, we expect e-scooter and e-bike usage to continue to increase as we encourage people to give up car journeys. 

In Bristol, Voi scooters are parked on the pavement using geofencing. This encourages riding on the pavement and has led to pavement clutter. What is Voi doing to address these problems?

Technology is helpful to prevent pavement riding/parking though rider education is most important. We’ve recently developed Voi’s Approach to Parking working with Living Streets, Campaign for Better Transport which advocates for on-street/carriageway parking which helps send the right signal to users though obviously space can be contentious in local communities.

How does Voi approach the challenges from communities that e-scooters are only for young people? How does Voi manage the use of the e-scooter particularly around misuse e.g. double riding, pavement riding & riding against traffic flow to reduce complaints?

Those using e-scooters varies quite widely from early 20s to 60s+. It’s changed during the trials too. Early on people were taking ‘leisure rides’ whereas now people are commuting to and from work. Report a Voi has been important to issue warnings / penalties and ultimately banning for anti-social behaviour if required. But, typically once someone receives a warning, they’re unlikely to repeat misuse.