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I spy… greener roads


Last weekend was the summer bank holiday, which saw us heading off in our droves to visit friends and relatives or enjoy our beautiful beaches and countryside.

One thing’s for sure: in amongst the persistent cries of “are we there yet?” (no!) and “I need the loo” (you should’ve gone before we left!), thousands of games of I Spy will have been played on car journeys up and down the country.

Here at WWF, we’ve been thinking about how we want roads to look in the future, from 2020 onwards. So let’s imagine a car-based game of I Spy in 2025.

I spy with my little eye something beginning with CP.

Cuddly panda? Climate-denying president?

Nope – it’s charge points!

A Nissan Leaf electric vehicle at a recharging stationA Nissan Leaf electric vehicle at a recharging station on the street in Berkeley Square, London, UK © Global Warming Images / WWF

The Government has said it wants everyone to be buying only electric vehicles from 2040. We reckon we could achieve that by 2030 – keeping us up there with electric vehicle leaders like the Netherlands, Norway and India, attracting investment in modernising the UK auto industry, and helping us meet our targets for tackling air quality and climate change.

Most electric vehicle drivers charge mainly at home and batteries are getting better year-on-year, but we do need rapid public charge points for those long journeys to see your relatives on the bank holiday. 96% of motorway services already have rapid charge points, but with more electric vehicles on the roads, we’re going to need way more of them.

Something beginning with T.

Tarmac? Traffic?

Nope – it’s trees!

Driving along a country lane overgrown with Beech treesDriving along a country lane overgrown with Beech trees near Camelford, Cornwall, UK © Global Warming Images / WWF

Trees are one of nature’s greatest inventions. They are a great natural form of carbon storage, helping to tackle climate change. They can help improve flood protection, which is also crucial for dealing with climate change. And of course they provide habitats for wildlife.

No wonder then the Government has a target to plant 11 million trees by 2020. However, recent reports suggest they’re some way off meeting that goal, with only 2 million planted since 2015.

It might sound surprising, but roadsides are actually great places for tree planting. At the roadside, as well as the benefits above, they also help screen walkers, homes and businesses from the noise and air pollution caused by road traffic. Win-win-win-win-win!

Something beginning with CP.

What, again?! Is it Christmas pudding? Cherry pie? I’m getting hungry…

Nope – this time it’s cycle paths.

A cyclist on the CS7 cycle path in London, UK.A cyclist on the CS7 cycle path in London, UK © Global Warming Images / WWF

It’s hard to beat the bike when it comes to green transport. Not only are there no dirty exhaust fumes but cycling makes us healthier too. According to Cycling UK, regular cycling can reduce risks of deadly illnesses such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

As well as ensuring safe, good quality cycle paths (for example, when A-roads pass through towns and cities), it’s important to make sure major roads can be easily crossed by cyclists (as well as pedestrians). One simple way to do this is by building bridges, like the cycle bridge over the M5 near Exeter in Devon.

Something beginning with GB.

George Best? Great Britain? Oh no I know this one – green bridges!

Hedgehog, on forest ground © Sanchez & Lope / WWF-CanonHedgehog on forest ground © Sanchez & Lope / WWF-Canon

That’s right. It’s not just cyclists who need to be able to safely cross busy roads. It’s vital for wildlife too. Poorly designed roads chop up landscapes and sever animals from their natural habitats, increasing the risk of roadkill. It’s important to minimise this effect by incorporating biodiversity corridors, such as green bridges, to ensure safe movement of wildlife.

This Government has pledged to not only leave the environment in the same state it inherited it, but in a better state, and has committed to publish a 25 Year Environment Plan. The new roads strategy can help deliver this plan by not just minimising negative impacts on biodiversity, but by providing positive improvements for biodiversity such as green bridges.

Greener roads?

This appealing vision of greener roads won’t just happen on its own. It needs the UK Government to take action and put its money where its mouth is.

We’re one of several charities calling on the Department for Transport to put sustainability at the heart of its second Road Investment Strategy (RIS 2), which sets funding priorities for Highways England. Doing so will ensure the Strategy helps, rather than hinders, the Government’s goal to improve our natural environment and tackle crucial issues like climate change and air pollution.

To read more about making roads greener, click here to download the new report ‘Rising to the challenge: A shared green vision for RIS 2’.

Motorway at nightMotorway at night © Ray Booysen

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