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James Botham | 22.09.2005 15:56 | Ecology | Birmingham

The myth that buses are the source of Birmingham's traffic congestion problem was dramatically debunked last Saturday (17th Sep) when Birmingham Friends of the Earth staged a 'sit-down demonstration' in the streets of Digbeth.



With nothing more elaborate than a few chairs and some cardboard steering wheels, fifty volunteers sat 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.

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 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.

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. 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."

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."

James Botham
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Hide the following 5 comments

Nice one!

22.09.2005 16:51

Hey nice way of getting across to people how wasteful cars are.

Did you have a street party afterwards?



22.09.2005 20:27

Well done everyone for a fantastic visualisation of the problem.... It's true that nearly all the cars on the road have just one person in them at rush hour...

Congrats, spread this link to your local council.



23.09.2005 00:36

Wheres the picture of 50 people standing at a cold wet bus stop waiting for late bus.



23.09.2005 07:28

yeah and where's the next photo of when 5 EMPTY buses turn up after waiting half an hour in the rain!

nice publicity stunt though :)

brum's public transport sucks

Buses suck...use light rail

23.09.2005 18:46

What about light rail? Also known as trams and trolleys... Jersey City, New Jersey USA has a brand new network of well as many cities across the US have been building them
they are better than buses because they have there own right of way and can bypass the can reconvert old freight rail lines into new light rail lines...and they are cheaper than underground subways ( tubes ) or elevated trains. Buses get stuck in traffic, use diesal fuel ( so they are no good when the gas crisis hits) and contribute to asthma, not to mention there is the social stigma of using a bus (it makes you look poor). Whereas an efficient light rail system connecting birmingham would be used by all people, not just the 10 percent to poor to own a car.

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Light rail has proven to be an excellent mode of transportation for NJ residents and throughout our nation. Light rail is a clean, efficient, and speedy way to commute locally or to make local connections to major terminals and service. NJ TRANSIT presently operates two light rail systems in the northern New Jersey area and one in the southern part of the state.

Hudson-Bergen Light Rail has won national recognition and awards as an innovative public-private partnership that led to the development of an excellent transportation system. This system connects residential Bayonne and western Jersey City with Jersey City's Exchange Place and Newport Center, and Hoboken Terminal -- business and shopping centers with easy connections to New York City via PATH and NY Waterway. To view Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system map click here.
The Newark City Subway is a vital link that brings residents in north Newark and from Newark's northern suburbs to educational and cultural destinations in New Jersey's largest city. This system, which introduced new light rail vehicles and new stations in 2001, connects to Newark Penn Station - the major transportation terminal in the state - and intersects with an extensive local bus network in the greater Newark area. To view Newark City Subway system map click here.
River LINE is a 34-mile passenger light rail line, which links Trenton with Camden. With 20 station stops serving communities along the Delaware River's Route 130 corridor, the light rail system connects riders to the larger transportation networks of NJ TRANSIT, Amtrak, PATCO, and SEPTA. For more information, visit the River LINE Web Site at To view River Line system map click here.