Friday 4 January 2013

Where are all those cars going?

Whenever I am driving on a busy dual carriageway, I look at the cars passing me or heading in the opposite direction, and I wonder:  where on earth are all these people going to?  I imagine that the people in those cars are wondering the same.  Is his journey as important as mine obviously is, (otherwise I wouldn’t be making it)?

Some answers are provided, for the principal routes into and out of Gosport, by the “Strategic Access to Gosport” report commissioned from Mott Gifford by Hampshire County Council.  The report is, in principle, about all forms of public and private transport, although my focus here is mainly on private car use recorded in the report.

In my earlier post, I commented on the disparity between housing and employment capacity in Gosport.  There are more than 2 residents of working age for every job in the Borough.  Consequently large numbers of residents must leave the borough every day for work.  Gosport  is the largest town in the country not to have its own railway station, so that option is not available!

The result has long been, unsurprisingly, a large daily tidal flow of road traffic and, while the borough has relatively good bus services, inevitably most of this is private cars
Three roads  carry this tide flow: the principal route, the A32 from central Gosport to Fareham; Newgate Lane, a subsidiary route to Fareham which largely serves Lee on Solent, and western Bridgemary/Rowner, and Titchfield Road which is the principal route towards Southampton
(There is one more road, running parallel to the A32, but this is the beginnings of a proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route to Southampton, restricted to scheduled bus services, emergency service vehicles,  and cyclists.  It follows the route of the old single-track railway line which originally served  Gosport, but which was axed long before the Beeching review.  For some years it served as a route for goods trains transferring munitions - including, according to rumour, Polaris nuclear warheads  -to the Frater munitions depot.  For many years it was left to moulder before an ambitious plan to convert it into the first stage of a light rail link from Gosport to Southampton.  That foundered on cost grounds but it was resurrected as a tarmacked bus road, and opened in late 2011.  Some noisy residents have been agitating for it to be opened to private cars to take pressure off the A32 but fortunately these appeals have fallen on deaf ears, as the busway has substantially reduced bus journey times between Gosport and Fareham.   The BRT itself merits a separate post.
The Mott Gifford study analyses the hourly flows on these three roads, and reports on a survey of users travelling from home to work destinations outside the borough (see table 2.3 on page 2.10, or page 17 in Google docs view
It can be seen that the 2nd, 3rd and 4th most popular destinations are Portsmouth, South Fareham and Fareham Central.  Portsmouth accounts for 9% of motor traffic departing to work in the morning.  There is no motor access to Portsmouth across the harbour (the ferry is foot passengers and bicycles only) so any motorist must travel around the entire perimeter of Portsmouth harbour, one of the largest natural harbours in the UK.  The longest cycling distance from any point in Gosport – North Bridgemary – to the central commercial district of Portsmouth, including the distance sat on the cross-harbour ferry, is 5¼ miles, anticlockwise around a wonky circle.  The shortest driving distance to the same destination is also from North Bridgemary, and is 9½  miles, clockwise around the same circle.  From most parts of Gosport you could transfer at least 2 miles from the ride to the drive -  3¼ miles against 11½.  ThePortsmouth Evening News in its 2004 article cites access to Portsmouth across the harbour as one of the reasons why the borough has a high cycling rate.  So why do so many people drive all the way around?

Fareham Central and South Fareham account for 6% and 4% respectively.  The longest cycling distance from any point in Gosport – southern Alverstoke, near Gilkicker Point,  to Central Fareham  - is 6 miles.  To South Fareham it is a mile or so less, and to the southern end of the busway about three miles. For cyclists coming from the southern and central parts of the borough, much of this can be ridden on a shared off-road cycle path or the busway.  The busway should in principle be relatively safe, as its only other traffic is about 30 buses per hour, but there has so far been one incident in which a cyclist was knocked down and injured by a bus.  If you prefer not to share with buses however, you could travel in one - there are cycle parking facilities at bus stops, although they are somewhat limited in capacity. 
This route however would not be useful to residents of western districts such as Lee on Solent as it would involve too large a detour.  The direct northbound route on Newgate Lane is neither safe nor pleasant as it has no cycle facilities whatever, although there are plans to add a cycle path with a road “dualling” scheme proposed for 2013/14 at a cost of £8m (which I hope to cover in a later post).
All the same, these three easily cyclable destinations account for almost a fifth of the morning exodus by car.
The table also  indicates a number of other destinations which can be easily reached by a combination of bicycle and train, via Fareham Station.  Eastleigh (3%), Bursledon & Hamble (3%) and Southampton (5%) are short journeys westbound, and Havant (3%), Portchester (8%) and Cosham (9%) are short journeys eastbound.
Taken together, bicycles in conjunction with the BRT and local rail easily serve the destinations of half the drivers departing Gosport in the morning.

It is said that a definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again, each time expecting a different result. 

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