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February 7, 2011 / clayliesstill

Ebbsfleet International – cycle friendly paradise

As discussed, Ebbsfleet International station, with its 6,000 (mostly empty) car parking spaces, isn’t exactly a model for a localised solution to transport. Quite the opposite: it encourages people to drive great distances to take trains even farther.

But perhaps it does have a role depositing commuters living in cheap housing around the station into central London? After all, currently 54% of passengers at UK rail stations walk (p 19) to the station and a further 2% cycle (only 20% go by car, 24% other public transport).

Does Ebbsfleet have a similar access mode patterns?

Somehow, I doubt it. When I visited there were 11 bikes parked in the cycle parking, which has a capacity of around 40. It’s at least 20 minutes walk to the nearest house along busy roads.

Cycle access to the station is by crappy pavement cycle paths, complete with the ever excellent ‘Cyclists Dismount’ sign, whereupon the path cedes all priority to, er, a half empty car park.

Classic British cycle planning.

Still, there are plans to construct housing for 40,000 people in a vast series of chalk pits between the station, the A2 and this:

Bluewater: 13,000 car parking spaces with a couple of Accessorize stores attached.

The masterplan for the ‘Ebbsfleet Valley’ development has the usual claims of sustainability and mixed use planning, scattered with commercial, shopping and businesses, with the li(n)e that residents will be “able to get to these places, and further afield, quickly and without needing a car.”

The first phase of this huge project has already started: a grim cluster of beige dwellings called ‘Springhead Park’ squatting on the edge of an unlovely outskirt of Gravesend.

With the M25 slicing past one side and the “recently improved 4-lane A2” charging through the south will the Panglossian promise that

“we want people to be able to step out of their front door and have the choice of getting where they want without effort, without delay, and without a car”

…be fulfilled? At least 19,000 car parking spaces within 2 miles and the planners persist with the myth (which Dartford Borough Council have gone along with) that they aren’t designing for the car.

At the very best they are setting up a new community of hypermobile London commuters. Even they will be having to drive to the station if the best access that can be offered are cycle paths like the one above.

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