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Life after the virus: don’t return us to where we came from

Rik Andrew London SE6
01 May 2020

The scope of the DfT’s transport regulatory review is too limited and too reliant on technological fixes that will only have a very limited impact on travel habits, and tackling the adverse effects of excess travel (‘Regulatory review to unleash transport’s innovating spirit’ LTT 03 Apr). What is urgently needed is policy changes, without which the Government’s stated aims of reducing the dominance of the car, and thereby killed and serious injuries and air pollution, will not be met. 

Covid-19 has shown that:

  • pollution can be dramatically reduced – by a third to a half
  • we have more than enough roadspace for essential journeys and all freight
  • congestion can be avoided – so can most road deaths and serious injuries (KSI)  
  • it is possible for many people to work at home at least some of the time 
  • people are flexible, e.g. using local shops within walking / cycling distance can replace many (car-based) trips, as can home deliveries
  • The choice now is: do we want to go back to ‘normal’ where:
  • many die prematurely from pollution levels way above safe World Health Organisation limits
  • congestion is chronic on both urban and inter-urban roads 
  • KSIs are at epidemic levels – deterring people from cycling / walking  
  • there is severe overcrowding at peaks on all forms of rail / but under-use off-peak
  • daily commuting is the norm for most people five days per week     
  • people drive to the supermarket and ignore local shops
  • few people walk, very few cycle; 
  • we have high levels of obesity 
  • traffic models assume all driving is essential
  • Or, do we want to go forward to a better, safer, more civilised society?
  • The DfT’s recent cycling and walking investment strategy safety review failed to result in any significant policy changes – despite several sensible proposals from consultees. 
  • We need changes as soon as possible, such as: 
  • driver liability presumed when vulnerable road users are injured – as per EU countries
  • drivers must give way when turning – we need zebra crossings at side road entries (without belisha beacons)
  • driving licence retest every ten years, and every five years for elderly drivers
  • taxes on car use – not car ownership 
  • workplace parking charges to deter car commuting, with only disabled parking exempt
  • no free parking at supermarkets/leisure centres/parks
  • congestion charges on all Thames crossings (and £2.50 is too low) and to enter Heathrow Airport 
  • no exemptions for taxis / private hire from London’s congestion charge, nor from banned turns etc   
  • advisory (or narrow) cycle lanes should be illegal 
  • all cycle lanes / tracks should pass through major junctions – not end before
  • motorised traffic should be slowed down through junctions, with no extra lanes in and out of them 
  • prevent left hooks – install ‘Hold left turns’ at traffic light-controlled junctions
  • prevent right hooks – don’t permit uncontrolled right turns at traffic light-controlled junctions 
  • all pedestrian crossings should allow pedestrians to cross the carriageway in a single phase 
  • 20mph limits should be implemented on all minor roads – not at the discretion of local authorities
  • prevent rat-running

Finally, stop traffic modelling – its sole purpose is to defend the status quo.

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Oxfordshire County Council
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Oxfordshire County Council
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Oxfordshire County Council
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