Thus spoke Prime Minister Johnson in the House of Commons on 6th May 2020. Next day the Minister for Transport announced a programme which appears to signal the best chance for genuine Governmental support for cycling and walking for the last few decades. Momentous if it is – and not before time. “Should” – but will it be? I look at the prospects and continue the update of transport in the Covid crisis
Below is a copy of slides presented to Brian Deegan’s “Ideas with Beers” Zoom session today 5 pm:
The previous post has received an unusually high number of views for the RDRF site – this backs up our view that this is a crucial time for transport professionals and campaigners to be active. Please read the post if you haven’t as I am adding on developments using the same format.
I’m aware that most of us have, if anything, more tasks than usual to complete at this difficult time. There is also a natural reticence about “being political” at a time when many of us will lose loved ones. I certainly don’t think that phenomena like reduced motor traffic and better air quality should be airily welcomed as “silver linings” to the cloud of Covid-19. However, I would argue that there are ways in which we need to become involved in developments, not just because of the immediacy of matters like the need to control speeding from all too many drivers taking advantage of reduced traffic, but because the car-dominated status quo may become even more entrenched as the crisis subsides if we don’t.
We have already seen carmakers allegedly trying to weaken controls on emissions at this time . On March 23rd Transport for London suspended all of its charging zones to assist emergency services and critical workers. In fact, as critics such as Councillor John Burke of Hackney Council pointed out, these could have been exempted with existing technology. The result would have been even more convenience for them, and no increased traffic stress risked for London.
I mention this last case because in a Twitter debate on this with the President of the Automobile Association, he told us to “set aside ideology” – while being, in my view, all too “ideological”. A classic defence of the political status quo is to argue that we shouldn’t “be political”. But transport is political – we shouldn’t pretend otherwise. Consider the current debate about actual (or exaggerated) levels of inappropriate use of parks, and the issue of police enforcing Government instructions. Compare that with reports that overstretched police officers may not be enforcing speeding – by drivers who may well not be critical workers or making essential journeys – which has been normalised by all too many whose ideology claims that speeding is not a “real” crime.
In my view here are things that transport professionals and campaigners should be doing if they can find the time. It should be time well spent.
We have decided to POSTPONE rather than CANCEL this conference until later this year – we will set a new date in the summer with our speakers as the COVID-19 situation develops. We have had substantial interest in the conference and think it would be wrong to abandon it. Regrettably road danger will not disappear in the meantime, and the need for such events will continue. Hopefully a new spirit of concern for public safety in the current emergency can give impetus to efforts to reduce road danger.
We look forward to re-posting details of the event later in the year.