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Monday, 7 February 2011

Proposals to restrict traffic in the Circus area

TARA is concerned about the Circus Residents’ Association’s proposals for traffic management in their area.

Firstly, we are concerned about the research that underpins these proposals which consists, as we understand it, of a traffic count and an assumption that the majority of traffic is using the Circus as a rat run from Gay street to Lansdown. By our own observations there are a number of reasons why vehicles are in this area e.g.looking for places to park, delivering to local business and residents, dropping off at the Assembly room etc. We need to understand why people are in the Circus before making decisions about managing them.

We also need a proper impact assessment for neighbouring roads before we put more vehicles on the already congested Lower Lansdown, George Street, Gay Street south and Queen Square. The CARA proposals for ameliorating this impact seem inadequate. The proposal to make the single yellow lines in George Street double yellow lines will create considerable problems for both residents and their commercial neighbours.

These kind of piecemeal proposals which tinker with the problem of traffic management in Bath by shifting the problem from one area to another within the city seem symptomatic of a systemic failure by BANES and the other public authorities involved to come up with an overall plan or even vision for managing the problems of traffic congestion and associated rising levels of pollution in the city.

Even the part of the CARA proposal which might win wider support, i.e. preventing coaches from cruising the city’s historic landmarks, lacks the necessary context of a city wide plan for managing tourist coaches except at one off events like the Xmas Market.

Complaints about 'rat running' often betray a misunderstanding about how a city road system functions. It is essentially a self adjusting network that, by giving drivers a choice of routes from A to B, should automatically reduce overall journey times, congestion and harmful emissions if it is working efficiently. In this context the idea that traffic should not enter an area unless it has destination business there is misplaced and attempts to limit traffic flow anywhere on the network should not be undertaken unless the consequences for overall performance and risk of increased problems on other network links have been assessed.

This is not to say that limiting 'through' traffic in, for example, what are plainly residential areas should never be attempted, they should and often are and the Circus may be a case in point, but this should not be done until the local benefits have been systematically evaluated against effects on other localities and on the overall performance of the network.

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