The carbon cycle

Brighton & Hove Council is encouraging residents to get en route to a healthier planet with a new kind of online journey planner. Simon Jennings reports

What was your New Year’s resolution? To walk to work three times a week, even when it’s raining? Or to do more exercise and ride a bike more? These were just some of the answers given by citizens of Brighton & Hove, who were invited to post eco-friendly resolutions in January, as part of the launch of the council’s JourneyON campaign.

JourneyON is a new initiative to encourage residents to leave their cars at home and use public transport or cycle around the city. According to Brighton & Hove City Council, 46% of car journeys made in the city are of less than three miles.

In a bid to cut congestion and encourage people to change their behaviour in response to the threat of climate change, the council has launched a journey-planner-style website to enable residents to find the best route to their destination without using their car. In a city where more than 50% of adults are obese, the scheme also promotes taking exercise by walking and cycling as well as saving money on fuel and parking.

By going online, citizens can input their starting point and destination and the website displays a choice of routes according to the method of travel. The scheme seeks to capitalise on open spaces and pedestrianised routes throughout the city to shorten journeys. The website also calculates how much carbon is produced by a particular journey, according to whether the user drives, cycles or takes public transport – thus enabling users to keep track of their personal carbon footprint.

The foreseen success of the campaign hinges on engaging closely with the people of Brighton & Hove to formulate suitable transport options. “It’s about giving people choices and options on other forms of travel but the strong message from citizens was ‘don’t preach at us’,” said Cllr Gill Mitchell.

The JourneyOn website also hosts a travel-based blogging competition to follow the request for citizens’ resolutions. People can blog about their experiences of the scheme, and play an active role in shaping its progress.

The council has also been working with local film makers and school children to make one-minute promotional films to raise awareness on climate change.

Research for the campaign was built on other successful, people-centred initiatives in the city. One such scheme, which involved knocking on 10,000 doors in the west of the city, increased cycling in the area by 71%. “We are operating a two-pronged approach: putting in place the infrastructure, then telling people about it,” explained Mitchell.

The council has installed extra cycle racks and put in 28 advanced stop lines at traffic lights across the city.

The campaign is being run in partnership with Cycling England, a voluntary organisation that has launched the scheme in six other towns across Britain, from Darlington to Exeter. Brighton & Hove City Council and Cycling England are sharing the £3M cost of the initial three-year campaign.

Philip Darnton, chief executive of Cycling England, is very optimistic about JourneyON because of the enthusiasm shown by Brighton & Hove City Council: “The scheme is going to be very effective indeed because we invited applications from local authorities who really wanted to run the scheme. It’s about there being real commitment. It’s about the political will, not about the money.”

In a message to other local authorities considering a similar scheme Darnton said it was paramount to “think big, but start small”.

He advised councils to look to the future but to use the present to face up to climate change on some scale.

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