It's cars, not buses, that are choking Brum, says FoE

The myth that buses are the source of Birmingham's traffic congestion problem will be dramatically debunked this Saturday when Birmingham Friends of the Earth stage a 'sit-down demonstration' in the streets of Digbeth.

With nothing more elaborate than a few chairs and some cardboard steering wheels, fifty volunteers will sit for a striking group photograph conveying
a simple home truth about congestion, one that the City Council and business community still don't seem to appreciate but which public transport users
have known all along: that cars, not buses, are the reason Birmingham is the congestion capital of the Midlands.[1]

By spacing themselves out in the road to represent, first fifty single-occupancy private cars, then a single-decker bus with fifty passengers, the fifty sitters will graphically illustrate the advantage of public over private transport in an inner-city setting. Birmingham FoE have called the photo-shoot to draw attention to the issues surrounding local transport and the environment in the run-up to European Car-Free Day, Thursday 22nd September.[2]

Birmingham Friends of the Earth Transport Campaigner, Martin Stride said:

"We need to put our brains in gear if we are to effectively manage the road transport system. There are 27 million cars on the UK's road network
compared with fewer than 200,000 buses, most of which are indispensable to the more than one third of households in metropolitan city areas who do not
have access to a car.[3] A double-decker bus takes up one seventh of the road space of the equivalent number of cars, and yet it's buses that get the
blame for clogging up our roads."[4]

Commenting on the City Council's decision not to formally participate in Car-Free Day this year, Mr Stride added:

"Car-Free Day raises awareness of the downsides of our culture of car dependency: worsening traffic congestion, air and noise pollution, global
warming, and social dislocation. On the positive side, it's a great excuse to try alternative means of getting around. Naturally, we are disappointed
that Birmingham is not officially taking part in Car-Free Day this year, but we are pleased that the City Council is actively promoting Travelwise Week,
to highlight the benefits to our health, society and the environment of walking, cycling and public transport. And we are delighted to see that
Centro, the public transport authority, will be handing out free bus and train tickets to tempt car drivers out of their vehicles on 22nd September.
If this gets hardened car commuters into the habit of using public transport more often, then the City will breathe more easily and we will all benefit."

Editor's Notes

[1] The number 67 bus lanes on Tyburn Road (A38) were originally suspended in the summer of 2004 to accommodate the expected increase in traffic
arising from nearby motorway roadworks, as well as to test the theory that allowing traffic into the bus lane would relieve congestion. The Council has
just decided to continue the suspension for another six months, starting in July 2005. Birmingham FoE wants to see the suspension of the Tyburn Road bus
lanes lifted and more properly enforced bus lanes introduced within existing road space, along with bus priority measures at junctions.

[2] European Car-Free Day (also known as 'In Town Without My Car' Day) falls every year on 22nd September. Since 1995, the organisers of Car Free Day
have sought to draw attention to the environmental damage caused by excessive car use and promote alternatives. The basic concept of Car-Free
Day is to close part of a city centre to traffic for 24 hours and have a party in the 'car-free zone'. It's an opportunity for pedestrians, cyclists
and commuters to experience calmer, safer urban environments without heavy traffic for one day, and ideally to get people used to the idea of more
permanent methods of traffic control, such as pedestrian zones and new cycle and bus routes.

[3] In 2002-3, 35 per cent of households in metropolitan city areas did not have access to a car. Source: Department for Transport/National Statistics

[4] Source: Environmental Transport Association.