There are three main contributors to respiratory ill health from road traffic: exhaust particulates, tyre dust, and brake pad dust. While it is very likely that the first of these is the most damaging, the other two must be taken fully into account, particularly for medium and long term planning.
Bristol City Council does not seem to demonstrate any particular awareness of tyre and brake dust pollution, as they recently mentioned consideration of extension of rubber tyred guided buses (as with Metrobus but entirely in guideways).
Such buses are a poor compromise, not a satisfactory medium or long term answer. They pollute with tyre dust and, as they are unlikely to incorporate regenerative braking, they will likely continue to pollute with brake dust.
Only metal rimmed, rail guided services such as trams, metros and trains, electric or compressed gas powered, with regenerative brakes will give us clean air, much reduced congestion, ease of maintenance, reliability, frequency, and passenger capacities that we need.
Modern trams do not need the complex and often ugly catenary wire pick-up structure of most established tram systems. There are now multiple options and combinations available: battery storage, braking recovery, tram stop recharge, tunnel-only catenary, in-track pick up, and more.
The lead time is long, due to all the factors that took Metrobus a while to reach us, plus or minus a few, so decisive action is needed right now.
Most major world cities know the many values of trams, both heritage and modern. Motor traffic is usually calmer, trams are pleasing on the eye, are regular, easier to maintain, and cheaper per passenger mile. They are much less polluting and passengers love them. It’s time Bristol came out of its long denial and caught up.
I had the pleasure, as a senior engineer of writing the safety case for Luas, the first modern trams in Dublin, in the early 2000s. Go see for yourselves, take a ride to Dundrum or Sandymount, or watch them glide quietly by as you sip a pint or two of the dark stuff, and come back here to nag our planners.
I live in hope.
Tony Wilson is a volunteer at Bristol Older People’s Forum
Main photo from WECA
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