With developments planned in Watford, won’t this create more traffic and parking problems?

Watford must provide more housing and employment to provide jobs and homes for local people. The targets are set by the government and based around what is needed locally. Our new Local Plan aims to provide most new homes in the town centre, which will be car-lite, meaning parking is severely limited. This area has the best access to services, facilities and public transport options, meaning people who live here will not need to own a car.

This strategy aims to ensure that the sustainable transport options are in place so that new residents and employees do not need a car to move around the town. More flexible working practices, and the rise of people working from home will also reduce the need to travel, particularly during peak periods.

Transforming Travel in Watford focuses on encouraging car-free lifestyles by reducing how much parking is allowed at all new developments, requiring developers to contribute to sustainable travel facilities (e.g. improved buses and walking or cycling infrastructure) and provide cycle parking.

If we allowed high levels of car parking, traffic would only increase further, causing more congestion and more areas would eventually face parking issues. We will also encourage deliveries to be consolidated and made by green modes as much as possible to reduce the impact these have on the road network.

We know that a significant number of cars on our roads are actually driven by people who live outside Watford, so stopping development will not lower traffic levels, and is not an option that the government will allow.

Wouldn’t more bus lanes and cycle lanes simply increase congestion?

Encouraging people to travel by bus or bike is one of the best ways to reduce the number of cars on our roads, meaning less traffic and quicker journeys for drivers. For buses to be attractive enough to encourage people away from cars, their travel needs to be prioritised, which makes them faster and more reliable. Without bus lanes, buses have to drive amongst regular traffic, meaning they get stuck in traffic jams and even slow down car journeys whenever they pick up/drop off passengers.

A fear of traffic is one of the main reasons why people choose whether or not to cycle, so dedicated cycle lanes give people of all ages a safe space to travel. By providing these, we offer an opportunity for people to switch from driving to cycling, thus reducing congestion. Active travel helps contribute to a healthier population, with obesity and heart disease at alarming levels this is another rationale for us to develop these proposals.

If we don’t provide more cycle and bus lanes, more and more people will drive and congestion and noise and air pollution will get worse.

Just because a cycle lane doesn’t have bikes on it when you see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t being used at other times. As bikes take up very little space, cycle lanes are very efficient meaning they can move far more people than the equivalent space being dedicated to cars. In addition, it takes time for a viable network of cycle lanes to be built up, and we would expected over time cycle lanes to become increasingly used.

Since cars will all be electric soon surely there is no need to take cars off the road to reduce climate change?

Whilst electric vehicles have lower greenhouse gas emissions than petrol/diesel vehicles, they still have an impact on climate change if the energy they use is from coal or gas power stations. They also release particles into the air from their brakes and tyres which are harmful to our health. The production of new cars, and their batteries in particular, is not carbon neutral, with significant negative environmental impacts.

If everyone drove electric vehicles instead of cycling, walking or taking the bus, our roads would be even more congested than they are now, and our journeys would take even longer. Simply switching to electric vehicles alone will not provide the benefits that could be delivered by sustainable travel; using a car for short trips, especially when only one or two people are inside, is not an energy efficient mode of transport.

Traffic congestion is the biggest issue the strategy should be addressing. Surely building wider roads, better junctions and improved traffic flow is the answer?

We recognise that congestion is a daily source of frustration for people travelling in and around Watford. The council, along with most other councils across England, have tried to reduce congestion by building more, bigger, roads for decades, but there is plenty of evidence that it only encourages people to drive more and the road space is quickly filled up. Road building is expensive, and studies have shown that giving people better public transport and alternative travel options is much more effective at reducing congestion, while being better for the environment.

Transforming Travel in Watford’s focus on sustainable travel will free up space on the roads for people who want and need to drive cars, improving travel for everyone. The Council also continually monitors the borough’s roads to identify where changes to traffic signal timings will help traffic run smoother and works with developers to ensure new houses and other buildings offset their traffic impacts.

Won’t the proposals in the Strategy make it impossible to drive anywhere?

Most of the proposals in the Strategy will give people more convenient options for their journeys. While in some areas this might mean that road space is reduced to widen footpaths and cycle lanes, for example, cars will always be able to access all the locations they previously could.

This will allow people to choose not to drive where journeys could be made easily on foot or by cycling. The aim of the strategy does not include stopping anyone from driving, but making it easier to use other alternatives.

Cars are still necessary for many people, such as families with children, elderly and disabled people and for shopping trips, so is it realistic to prevent these people from driving?

The strategy recognises that cars are still the main form of transport in Watford, and does not propose to ban car travel. Indeed, one of the initiatives is to support the use of car clubs so people can use a car when they need to, rather than having the expense of owning one all year round (especially as more people are homeworking now). We will also be continuing to install electric vehicle charging.

Rather than focus on the journeys which have to be made by car, the strategy aims to give people more options for the journeys which could be made easily by other ways. Changing these trips will mean less traffic for all road users. Many elderly and disabled people do not use cars, and would feel more able to travel in their neighbourhood if roads were less dominated by vehicles.

Furthermore, many children are currently driven because parents don’t feel it is safe for them to walk or cycle. By reducing traffic and improving infrastructure we will be creating safer streets for children. We will continue to ensure that necessary car trips are possible and provide disabled access and parking as required.

Will park and ride not just move congestion to a neighbouring area which is already congested and, perhaps, involve building on the Green Belt?

No site for proposed park and ride has yet been identified. We will be working with neighbouring councils and Hertfordshire County Council to find the most suitable site. A lot of the congestion we experience in Watford is traffic coming from outside the town. For a park and ride to be successful, it needs to be located where it will capture the most traffic.

Therefore, sites near motorway junctions are often considered to be the most effective. The site in Kings Langley that has been highlighted also provides the opportunity for people to complete their journey into Watford by train. Any park and ride site would be designed to minimise congestion and parking issues in its vicinity.

Park and ride would be capturing existing trips into Watford and switching them to bus, so would not be expected to increase congestion. The park and rides sites could also support other sustainable transport uses for those who live nearby such as electric vehicle charging, parcel lockers or cycle facilities.

To change the way people travel do we not need to provide better public transport and make it free or much cheaper?

While the council is not in direct control of most public transport in the borough, we work closely with public transport operators to ensure they provide the best service possible. The bus lanes we have proposed will improve journey speeds and reliability, making them more convenient and attractive than ever.

Our continued investment in the on-demand bus service, Arriva Click, provides another sustainable travel option in addition to regular buses. We will work with operators to encourage better and cheaper services. However, we know that nearly 20% of trips in Watford are less than one mile, and over 50% are less than three miles, so many of these don’t need public transport, but could be walked or cycled, with the benefit of being free and healthy.

Surely people will only cycle when the weather is nice so for much of the year this strategy won’t have an effect?

Many people cycle all year round already, and some of the places that have the highest cycling rates in the world have similar or worse weather than the UK, such as the Netherlands and Scandinavia.

Increasingly, employers are introducing shower provision at work places to support those using cycling to work, and this is a requirement of our Local Plan. If we provide high quality cycling facilities people will use them all year round. The strategy is not just about cycling though, which is why we are planning a range of different options for travelling, so the right choice is available for each trip.

Will Transforming Travel in Watford really mean people use their cars less?

The development of the strategy has been involved extensive analysis of transport in Watford, as well as engagement and consultation with residents, businesses, organisations and transport operators. This has allowed us to develop a strategy that we feel meets the specific needs of the town. The schemes we will be developing are not however unique to Watford, they are all things that have been implemented in other places and led to people switching from driving to more sustainable modes of travel. We are therefore confident that by implementing the strategy, in close consultation with the community we will enable people to travel in greener ways, and that this will have additional benefits in being quicker, cheaper and healthier.