Day commuters and the school run are the real problems in Bath

I have sent this letter to the Bath Chronicle in response to the council’s “Our plan to get Bath moving” . It’s a bit long so unsure if they will print it. The key problems within Bath come down to two ‘actors’.

Day Commuters

28,000 people drive by car and park somewhere in the city. We currently provide 7,000 car parking spaces and most Park and Rides are only a 3rd full by 9am. Day commuters use free parking available on Bath’s residential roads.

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You need to remove the ‘free’ bit through the use of parking control in the form of ‘soft’ Resident Parking Zones across the whole of Bath. This ensures all Park and Ride sites are fully utilised and justifies expansion, and yes, an East Park and Ride solution will be needed, say a Link and Ride using existing brownfield sites.


The School Run

Transport for London brought out an interesting statistic. 50% of traffic is the School Run.

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The Council has absolutely no handle on this figure for Bath or even other towns. Priority number one for Highways should be the development of good walking and cycling routes to schools. We need to kill the school run and we need to kill it fast.

Obesity, not Air Pollution is the problem

Let’s be clear, if you focus on Air Pollution, you end up throwing money at Electric Vehicles that still suffer from brake and tyre pollution, but more importantly take up the same space as an internal combustion vehicle.

Air pollution kills 40,000 people a year, Obesity kills 84,000. 88 people each year in BaNES die from Obesity related diseases below the age of 75.

We’re currently at 27.5% obesity, whereas a country that has focused on “Stop de Kindermoord” now has a envious 10% obesity rating. Extrapolating this, 63% of obesity is down to our transport systems. 55 BaNES residents die because of the political decisions your councillors and highways officers make each year.

If we truly want to tackle the health crisis in our transport systems, we need to focus on creating healthy streets and we start with children. We tackle Air Pollution and Obesity through this approach.

We need our own “Stop the child murder”.

We need councillors and councils delivering safe routes to school that enable kids to be able to safely cycle to school. The evidence is though that our council simply does not get the need for this as shown by the up and coming Weston route.

The Letter

The recent press release by the council “Our plan to get Bath moving” (  had within it a number of statistics that need to be restated in ways that show where the real problems are.

Within the context of the Link Road the following statements are made; 12% of Bath traffic is through traffic; 900 HGVs enter Bath along London Road; 2000 cars would be removed from London Road by the Link road.

So what does this tell us? That 88% of traffic is people getting around Bath. What they didn’t say was how many of those 900 HGVs turn down the A36. It’s about 300. Of the 15,000 cars that use London road ONLY 2000 would be removed. What this boils down to is that the Link road is a political decision demonising HGVs and sold as a solution to Bath’s traffic problems. It absolutely is neither, but an A36/A363 at Warleigh Lane Link Road would enable legal closure of Cleveland Bridge and the Paragon to HGVs and the closure of Mill Lane in Bathampton to motorised traffic returning the village back to a quiet village rather than a rat run.

Within the context of trains, the simple fact is that an immense amount of traffic comes from Wiltshire and from Bristol. We need a Corsham Station and we need a Saltford Station. To deliver these electrification is vital to increase rail capacity. None of this is mentioned.

Within the context of parking, the statement from the council that they will restrict off-road parking is naive and quite frankly ignorant. Most cities have returned the public realm to people for walking and cycling by developing off-road parking for residents and removing on-street parking facilities. I would strongly suggest that the council rethink their approach here and remove on-street parking through the provision off space in off street parking facilities. I would also look to Zurich that required developers to provide underground parking for surrounding residents.

The statement about encouraging cycling and walking is utterly pathetic. How about enabling cycling and walking? We need more than adverts on the back of buses.

More to the point, the plan does not identify the two key problems in Bath and how to tackle them.

Around 28,000 people commute to work in Bath by car each day. 10,000 Bath residents drive to work in Bath everyday. A journey of at most, 3 miles. Another 18,000 drive in from elsewhere, yet our Park and Ride sites are only about a 3rd full by 9am. If we truly want to solve Bath’s transport problems, we need to ‘kill’ the day commuter. To achieve that, placing all of Bath under parking control through a new ‘soft’ Residents Parking Zones that sit beside the existing ‘hard’ RPZs, where up to 2 permits are free for residents(yes free), parking up to 4 hours no return within 3 would immediately remove all day commuters driving into the city to park for free in residential areas. Commuters would also be able to buy monthly permits for these ‘soft’ RPZs at the price of a P&R monthly travel card. Day permits would also be sold. Yes, that does mean that a Bath resident would need to buy a commuter permit to park for work in another area of Bath. A local residents app would enable residents to police their own roads, however the council could also invest in ‘scan’ cars as they have done in Amsterdam to automate the policing process. Of note this also discourages student parking.

Finally we need to talk about the school run. This is blatantly one of the biggest transport issues facing Bath with over 5,000 children being driven to school each day. Other cities are implementing school streets or even fining parents for doing the school drop off. More telling is that even though 5.5% of residents working in Bath, cycle to work, only 1% of school children cycle to school. Our roads have been designed by the Council’s Highways department in collusion with councillors over decades to be too dangerous for kids to cycle on and even walking is a lower priority than ensuring good motorised traffic flow as demonstrated by every side road where there is no continuous pavement across the junction.

The failure of the plan to directly address the day commuter or the school run demonstrates a political weakness within the council, both politically and at officer level, to want to actually solve Bath’s transport problems. To put it into context, the Link road is at least 15 years away and apparently this is their solution.

Our problem is not the through traffic, be it HGVs or cars. Our problem is very much you, the residents, the commuters, the councillors, and the council officers. YOU have to decide the city that you want to have and not pander to the congested polluted one you currently have. You are traffic.

The council has its hands tied with the Link Road and even Train Stations. They can make encouraging noises but not really impact the decision making process and I think that’s why the Link Road is the headline commitment. Politically it is so far out that no matter what happens it looks good for the 2019 election.

What the council can do RIGHT NOW is introduce ‘soft’ resident parking zones across the city discouraging the day commuter from the city residential streets.  It can also tackle the school run through school streets and fining parents for dropping kids off at school. These two policies could remove upwards of 60,000 car journeys from our roads, or 30 Link Roads. These are hard decisions to make, but they would work. The ‘soft’ RPZs might even be profitable enough to enable to provide all children with free bus travel or the development of high quality safe routes to school.


  1. Hi Adam,

    Another fantastic article. Are you happy for me to send this to my youngest daughter’s school. We mainly cycle in. (2.5 miles)

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  2. Hi Can you please define what you mean by “soft’ resident parking zones. I’ve googled this and most of the hits are articles written by you. If this is one of the two policies put forward then exactly what is being proposed needs to be defined. Otherwise it can’t be reviewed, discussed and/or campaigned for by other people.

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