After Extinction Rebellion’s protest, majority back banning private cars from centre of Cardiff

Extinction Rebellion’s boat closes a street in Cardiff. Picture by Haydn Blackley. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Dafydd Trystan

One week ago, Extinction Rebellion’s green boat appeared overnight in front of Cardiff Castle and for three days Castle St in Cardiff was blocked to all motorised traffic (bar emergency vehicles).

For some it was a vision of the future – walkers and cyclists enjoyed the clean air, journeys by bke or foot around the centre were safer and more pleasant.

For others, the increased car journey times and the displacement of traffic to other nearby roads was, at the very least, a headache.

Two aspects of the protest and its impact should be noted. Firstly, and pretty obviously, it was disruptive and unplanned i.e. given the lack of prior notice (it was a protest after all) both the city and residents didn’t have the opportunity to plan alternative arrangements.

But, secondly, by the Wednesday traffic on surrounding roads had appreciably declined – Extinction Rebellion’s protest was an example of modal shift in action!

But what did the people of Cardiff make of this all? I was surprised in the aftermath of the protest to find considerable support for closing Castle St permanently to motor vehicles – amongst friends and colleagues of all political viewpoints.

I wondered whether the very real threat of climate change was persuading the population that our attachment to the private car really wasn’t a long-term proposition?

Snapshot

So I decided to undertake a twitter poll, ask a neutral question and engage with as many Cardiff based twitter accounts as possible – through community news sites and local politicians of all political colours. Now, twitter polls are not yougov polls – and if you want certainty whether 20% of residents or 24% of residents favour a particular course of action then you need a different method.

However, my poll which ran for 4 days managed to garner over 1,500 responses and more than 80% of identifiable engagements from the Cardiff or surrounding area.

The poll was also retweeted by a number of local news sites and local politicians from all major parties in the City. It thus gives us a clear guide to the views on the future of cars in the city centre.

The poll asked: ‘Big debate on Castle St in recent days. Who do you think should be able to use the street next to the Castle in the centre of Cardiff?’

And the 1,584 responses were distributed as follows:

  • People on foot and bikes 34%
  • People on foot, bikes & buses 39%
  • The above & taxis 11%
  • The above & private cars 15%

The verdict is clear – there is at the very least clear majority support for restricting private car use on Castle St in the centre of Cardiff. This finding was also reinforced by a number of the comments on the poll.

There was also considerable support for a tram service through the centre. Respondents were also concerned about ensuring suitable access to people with mobility difficulties and considering the impact on surrounding roads.

The poll itself provides a snapshot only, but it does suggest that the vision outlined thus far by Cardiff Council for the development of sustainable transport in the city could be more ambitious.

Such ambitious action would change the centre of our city – but the message from our poll is clear – people in Cardiff are serious about tackling air pollution and addressing climate change, and are willing to support far-reaching changes for the future.

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