Guernsey could achieve a model solution to its transport problems

September 27th, 2010 by Paul Langlois

As Guernsey strives to go green, one aspect of island life continues seemingly oblivious to any environmental issues and that is car usage.

The Environment Department’s idea of a Transport Strategy seems to be to encourage everyone into a car … “There we go, no one has a transport problem now.”

Peter Sirett’s lukewarm enthusiasm for Car Free Week and the lack of publicity by the Department was disheartening.

In particular there seems to be an ever-increasing number of unnecessarily large cars on our narrow roads.  If Guernsey is to pursue a greener lifestyle, then surely the reduction of car usage and car size is one obvious way of achieving this?

People complain about the amount of traffic, not realising as they sit in their cars that they are the problem.  Guernsey only feels crowded when you are in a traffic queue, so the reduction in car numbers will enhance our living environment – something we all seek.

Few people will get out of their car for the ‘greater good’ of the planet, so the only way to encourage people to use cars less or to use more environmentally friendly cars is to provide financial incentives.

I would suggest:

  • A car tax based on the weight (and therefore size) should be reintroduced.
  • An increased scale of car tax for second and third cars per household.
  • Introduce paid parking.  The common argument against paid parking is that those with private parking (including States members and civil servants) will avoid having to pay.  It is not beyond the wit of man to determine the number of private parking spaces and to tax the use of these as a ‘benefit in kind.’

The revenue received from the above could be used to subsidise ‘green’ initiatives such as:

  • Providing infrastructure for electric cars, with recharging facilities in key locations.  With the limited daily travel required, Guernsey is perfectly suited to using this form of power.
  • The reintroduction of an electric tram service between Town and St. Sampson.
  • Incentivise employers to provide electric office ‘pool’ cars or electric bicycles for the use of employees to get to meetings beyond the office.  (A common reason for driving to work is the need to get to appointments.)
  • Tax incentives to encourage companies using vans/company cars etc to ‘go electric’.
  • A cycle hire scheme as has recently been introduced in Central London. There people sign up to allow them to hire bikes available from special docking stations on a ‘pay as you cycle’ basis. Similar schemes have been operating successfully in other European cities for years.

Bicycles for hire in Brussels, Belgium (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

  • The creation of a safe cycle network around the Island incorporating under-utilised small lanes and green lanes
  • Grants provided for installation of showers in work places. The lack of shower facilities is one of the common reasons for people not cycling into work.
  • Provide a more flexible bus service using smaller, more frequent buses and/or more varied routes.

Some of these initiatives could also be carried out on a public/private funding basis to reduce the cost to the tax payer. (The London cycle hire scheme is sponsored by a national bank.)

Guernsey could achieve a model solution to the transport problems that are hitting communities large and small around the world today. It could spawn an industry of expertise in these areas and encourage eco-tourism which would generate income for the Island.

Another spin off is the increased use of bicycles and improved air quality which will improve the health of the Island and therefore reduce the burden on the Health Service. It will also save you a fortune on that health club membership you rarely use!

The reduction in the number of cars will also improve safety on our roads and parents will be less concerned about allowing their children to ride or walk to school.

Politicians may be afraid to back these initiatives for fear of losing votes as there is bound to be initial resistance. They have to see beyond this to the long term benefits for the Island’s beauty and the health and safety of its inhabitants. I believe this is what, deep down, the majority of people want…. it could even be a vote winner!

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