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Society can’t afford the car to be the winner from Covid-19

Margaret Willmot Salisbury SP2
21 August 2020
 

Roger Davies gives an interesting synopsis of transport modes and various issues associated with them (Letters LTT 24 Jul), but I feel the information he has omitted means that his conclusion – that cars are the answer – is fundamentally flawed.

Firstly, he makes no mention of the environmental impact of our travel choices. The Government’s recent Decarbonising Transport document reaches the conclusion that: “Public transport and active travel will be the natural first choice for our daily activities. We will use our cars less and be able to rely on a convenient, cost-effective and coherent public transport network.”  

Secondly, to refer to motor travel as if this is the answer for people concerned about their personal safety and health is to overlook the side effects of motorised road travel. The recently published figures for road traffic accidents show 1,748 fatalities and 153,315 reported casualties of all severities in 2019 (‘Little change in road fatalities as injury reporting questioned’ LTT 07 Aug). For comparison, this month’s tragic loss of three lives on the railway at Stonehaven represented the first passenger fatality on the railways for 13 years. The contrast between the news coverage this received and the unreported daily carnage on our roads is stark and sadly highlights society’s largely unquestioning acceptance of the human cost that follows from our reliance on the motor car.

Thirdly, there are other health impacts of reliance on the car in terms of the adverse consequences for air quality, and the cost in terms of obesity and inactive lifestyles. According to the Government’s new Gear Change document, physical inactivity is responsible for one in six UK deaths. Activities such as cycling and walking can help to prevent and manage over 20 chronic conditions and diseases.

I don’t have a car myself, and rely on a bicycle for getting around and shopping. Being a cyclist in my 60s I don’t see myself in the “Formula 1 petrolhead cyclist” category that Mr Davies seems to think predominates.  This would be news too to the many other cyclists who I see on a daily basis using their bicycles for commuting, shopping and other errands.

 
 
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