An Anecdotal Example of Cardiff’s Congestion Problem

Before we start: yes I know this is a personal anecdote and not a fully fledged data/evidence backed peer reviewed analysis but that’s not to say we shouldn’t ignore the experiences we, er, experience on our daily business.

I commute in Cardiff by bike. My route is about 20-25 minutes depending on how quick or not I decide to ride and a fair chunk of my commute is down the Taff Trail. One evening last week as I left work with a friend and colleague who also commutes on the Taff Trail we made an observation that surprised us both. Travelling North on the cycle path that cuts through the car park situated alongside North Road we noticed further ahead of us two ambulances leaving the Blackweir Ambulance Station. We’re a few hundred yards away from the ambulance station so there’s no need for us to take any evasive action or any change in speed at all but I remember we both made a throw away comment about the difficulty both ambulances had joining the road with blues and two flashing and sirens blaring due to the amount of traffic on the road.

The sirens dissipated into the distance, we moved on, and continued our previous conversation. Our speed travelling home whilst having a conversation is pretty low. That plus being careful around other users of the path meant that we were never going fast by any means. We were having a casual slow ride home and having a chat.

As we got further up the trail and came within a dozen or so yards of the underpass just below Western Avenue we saw two ambulances with blues and twos flashing and sirens blaring. It was the same two ambulances we’d seen earlier at Blackweir Ambulance Station. The congestion was so bad that the two of us riding at a casual and leisurely pace having a chat on our ride home from work had taken the same amount of time to travel the same distance. They had sirens and flashing lights and all we had were our legs.

Cardiff Bus, wholly owned by Cardiff Council, recently put bus fares up citing the city’s congestion as a reason. A publicly owned bus company putting fares up will only serve to exacerbate our congestion problem as people are discouraged from using public transport and towards using their cars. If we want to talk about removing congestion we need to encourage the use of alternative forms on transport: more people on busses, trains, walking, and (last but not least) biking. There are many ways of doing this, but putting bus fares up is certainly not it.

The 2011 census data showed us that 42% of people who drove when commuting in Cardiff travelled a distance less than 2km. That is mind blowing. Anyone of able body is capable of walking 2km. That’s a 20-25 minute walk; hardly a strenuous activity even for those who may not do any other form of physical activity. The reason why that statistic struck me here is that the distance from Blackweir Ambulance Station to the bridge over the Taff on Western Avenue is roughly 2km. Given that traffic congestion is a non-linear phenomena, even we can even reduce the number of cars on the road during peak times by 15-20% it would have an incredible affect on the flow of traffic. Jonas Eliasson demonstrates this extremely well in his TED Talk: How To Solve Traffic Jams.

The long and the short of it is that we all suffer as a result of traffic congestion whether we realise it or not. It’s likely that everyone will need to call upon the help of the emergency services, at some point in their lives, and I certainly don’t want to find out one day that the urgent assistance I may need has been delayed by too many people sitting in cars creating a traffic jam.

5 thoughts on “An Anecdotal Example of Cardiff’s Congestion Problem

  • 13th November 2017 at 8:43 am
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    But it is just too easy for people to get in their car & drive!
    The recent data on levels of obesity show that to a large extent people are just too lazy to use Active Travel.

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  • 13th November 2017 at 9:39 am
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    To read the census stats showing that 42% of commutes are 2km is shocking. I used to walk from Thornhill to Whitchurch High Shcool as a child, and would now. People make their own choices. I personally would feel daft sitting on my own in a 5 seater car complaining about traffic! Cardiff Bus have not helped with fair increases. But at least there is competition now. Although there could be so much more done in terms of cycleways for commuters. And I’m not talking about cycle provision like the new scheme in Birchgrove, which is not suitable at all for commuting cyclists. But, Isn’t it amazing that people will driver everywhere, complain about the traffic, and how unhealthy they are, complain about how expensive fuel is, AND drive to the gym, and complain about how expensive that is too. We all have choices to make. If folks choose cars, they choose everything else that comes with that choice.

    The recommended steps for the day i believe is around 10,000. Easily achieved by most people if they walk to work. Add to that the recommended weekly exercise is 150minutes, that’s 30 minutes a day. Again, easily achieved if people used a cycle to work.

    However, not all work places are providing suitable facilities for cyclists. My employer provides a locker, but no shower. I have a towel in work and manage to have a “bits & pits” wash at a sink in the toilets. I drop clothes in by car on my days off, but would really like to be able to shower, especially in the summer. Locking up my bike is also a problem. Yes there are rails outside, but they’re uncovered. I don’t want a rusty bike. I do ride all year round, but I don’t want my bike to be left out in the rain. Lots of bike sheds/rails are not secure, and most are hidden around the back of buildings where it is easy for a thief to tamper with locks and bikes unhindered. Luckily, my employer is kind enough to allow me to bring my bike inside. We have the space, a lot of offices may not.

    It’s not easy, BUT, it saves on fuel, parking and vehicle costs. My body is getting exercise, and I save on gym fees. And it is more relaxing than dealing with rush hour traffic. My bike was subsidised by one of the cycle purchase schemes, so it’s a nice bike that I paid for over a year without breaking the bank.

    In all, it is better for my body and my pocket. The inconvenience of having to drop clothes off at the office is outweighed by the benefit of knowing I have clothes there, and I don’t have to put up with crumpled/folded clothes at work. I can work late and not have to put up with busses only travelling every hour after certain times. I can ride hard and make it exercise, or gently and just get home. I handle my day better because my body and mind are invigorated by the exercise, even on gentle rides. I have more money as I’m not spending it on fuel.

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    • 13th November 2017 at 5:48 pm
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      Re outside parking, there is a bit of a movement towards trying to persuade the Council to provide bike hangars like they do in many London boroughs. This is really aimed at residential streets, but I don’t see why some workplaces shouldn’t invest in them where feasible? I understand that Cardiff Cycle City are going to discuss this at their next meeting on 30th November…

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  • 13th November 2017 at 10:38 am
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    Good post and to me this shows the need for more ‘political action’ – building and maintaining our roads costs Cardiff Council an incredible amount of money – if there were the 10-20% decrease in car use as suggested here the financial savings would be enormous. But the politicians and policy makes don’t ride bikes so don’t understand the problem – they just sit in their cars!

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  • 13th November 2017 at 5:44 pm
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    Our car died back in the spring, and we’ve been getting along fine in the main, walking, cycling and taking the bus. However We have one particularly tricky journey which is only feasible by taxi. It has caused us to have endless fascinating chats with drivers who all agree on one thing – that traffic is getting so much worse.
    When I walk/cycle however, I do so mostly along the new 20 mph streets in Canton. Although people still speed (and that drives me insane) it does seem to me like the roads are quite empty a lot of the time. Just wondering if people are choosing to use the main roads more often rather than crawl along at 20? If it’s a redistribution of traffic, rather than a net increase, then maybe Cardiff’s transport strategy is beginning to work…
    Any thoughts? Or statistics??

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