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  • Gareth Davies

A Huge Step for the Environment and a Big Leap for Local Democracy. February 2021

Updated: Aug 30, 2021

Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon River in 49BC. As Professor Laurie Pickup* stated in a recent article: the significance of that simple action has gone down in history – a point of no return – ‘the die are cast’ as Caesar himself said. Professor Pickup goes on to say: Crossing a modern Rubicon also takes courage, strength of purpose, foresight and a difficult challenge to orthodoxy. In our profession, the challenge to meet climate change and sustainable development targets requires the crossing of a political and professional ‘Rubicon’.

On the second of February 2021 the full Herefordshire Council made history by crossing that ‘Rubicon’. In doing so they took a huge step for the environment and a big leap for local democracy. They made the decision to abandon work on a Southern Link Road and a Western Bypass to the city and concentrate on sustainable measures to significantly boost active travel and provide a comprehensive, frequent, reliable and affordable electric bus network.

This also opens up the urgent need for enhancing lifestyles by improving the environment and air quality through reduced car usage and thus increasing the opportunities to socialise and be human, instead of encapsulated in a tin and rubber bubble!

The whole ethos of Herefordshire Council’s decision is based on the essential need to reduce dependency on the car whilst at the same time reintroducing the need for land use planning to go hand in hand with reducing the need for travel. This truly is local democracy vision at work.

In crossing that ‘Rubicon’, Herefordshire Council has encapsulated and actioned Professor Pickup’s words: We now have the possibility to provide opportunities for lifestyles where a large number of trips are avoided and, in situations where trips have to be made, that they are 'internalised' within the community - emphasising walking and cycling modes and prioritising the needs for all generations to be able to socialise.

We should all give a huge vote of thanks to Herefordshire Council for this momentous decision.

* Professor Laurie Pickup is the International Director Vectos and Honorary Professor of European Transport Policy at the University of Aberdeen. The Professor’s article appeared in Transport Times.

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