The Government has published a new active transport strategy and, upon reading the highlights anyway, I have felt like the character in Back to The Future who says “this all seems strangely familiar”.
Every journey starts with the first step, we all know that. There is a role for walking but it cannot take over short car journeys in the up to 10km range. For these, movement should be by wheeled transport, though not cars. The journey once started should be able to be completed using that wheeled mode.
By making movements fully accessible the use of bikes is almost assured. Regulators must be able to oblige highway authorities and others to explain how their provisions, or proposed provisions, meet the new cycle infrastructure guidance. Any backtracking or substandard provision must be eradicated. There have been too many false dawns and global warming, unlike Covid-19 (we hope), is not going away.
The restrictions set as a consequence of the virus give us a breathing space, which must be used to advantage. Authorities have an opportunity to review transport policies and programmes and revisit proposals.
The DfT’s idea of closing so called rat-runs is a good start. Creating areas without motor traffic, both in towns and residential areas, will suit a vast number of journeys. Authorities must make links between them appealing to non-motorised users, including disabled access, and your job is nearly done. The domestic ownership of motorised transport will be reduced to being something of last resort.
Where should all our efforts start? Well, as usual, we need to start in the classroom. We need to re-educate multiple generations that have yearned for the time they can become motorists. The actual costs of motoring have to be paid. For too long society has been subsidising motoring in terms of the actual costs of providing for motor vehicles. Added to those are the hidden costs such as pollution and the health of everyone, not just users.
This assessment of everything we do, make and use, must be made in terms of energy. If everything is reduced to energy costs we can make comparisons on an equal footing. So, no more lugging a 1,000kg motor vehicle to the shops for a newspaper or loaf of bread. Walk instead. If it’s raining take an umbrella. You’ll be surprised how fresh the air is when it’s been scrubbed by a shower of rain.
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