Monthly Archives: October 2010

Read this book!

 

At the founding of the RDRF in Leeds in 1993 we were confronted with the issue of, well, what would our name be? Would anybody understand or use the phrase Road Danger Reduction? I think we can give ourselves a pat on the back: RDR has been formally endorsed by (among others) the CTC (National cyclists’ organisation), London Cycling Campaign, RoadPeace, Living Streets, Twenty’s Plenty, the Environmental Transport Association, and the Road Danger Reduction Charter signed up to (if not actively pursued) by a number of local authorities. Of course, getting the approach understood – differentiating us from “road safety” and publicising the sustainable transport agenda – is another issue from getting it accepted by the powers that be.  After the Comprehensive Spending Review, it looks like we’re going backwards – or at least not forwards…

But now the good news: if we can’t actually get the RDR programme on the official agenda, we have got a forceful endorsement of RDR in this superb book: “Real road safety means reducing road danger, which implies far fewer motor vehicles travelling at much lower speeds” (p.84) and, on the twinned themes of the book:” The only practicable response to climate change and population weight gain is that walking and cycling are re-established as the predominant modes of urban transportation“(p.119).

Epidemiologist Professor Ian Roberts of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is well known to us for his work on the effects of 20 mph zones and his critique of  the pressure for road building from the global “road safety”/car industry lobby in developing countries. As with his previous work, the links between different parts of the effects of mass motorisation are established. Except it is not just the two main themes of the health disbenefits of mass car use and the greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles, but road danger, the effects on local community, and dependence on oil. On top of this, obesity and global warming are shown to be linked more intricately and deeply than we might have ever thought. All of this is presented in a polemic fuelled by (justifiably) righteous anger and backed up by a solid evidence base.

We have some criticisms (see below) but this short book is a must read for transport practitioners with a conscience and a genuine interest in the problems of the current transport system – and at least an indication of what we can and should do about it. Continue reading

Health on the Move

THSG_logo2

Take a look at this report from the Transport and Health Study Group: http://www.healthandtransportgroup.co.uk/research/research20_july2010.php. Health on the Move: Active travel – a preliminary report from the THSG. February 2010, by N Cavill, A Davis, M Wardlaw, S Watkins, J Mindell.

So far just the first three chapters are published, but we understand the whole report will be out later this year. The health benefits of the “active travel” modes are a key argument in the sustainable transport case, and are presented here by some of the top experts in the field in the UK. Continue reading

War on the motorist?

Alright, now that Transport Minister Philip Hammond has repeated his claim that he would reverse New Labour’s “war on the motorist”, it really is time to comment on what is nothing less than an inversion of reality. Seasoned campaigners and hardened professionals alike were gob-smacked when he first mentioned this phrase. But as – we hope – polite professionals who work, one way or another, with Government, we desisted from saying what first came to mind.

But now we are prompted by a rather good Editorial in the 2nd September Guardian which leads: “Unthinkable? Declaring war on motorists: When the transport secretary said ‘We will end the war on motorists’, the obvious question was: what war on motorists? Regrettably, the article restricts itself to suggesting the subsidising of public transport, but does at least refer to the reduced cost of motoring brought in by the previous Government.

Of course, in a sense there has been a “war on motorists”: a continuation of unnecessary levels of danger on the road which many motorists are prepared to oppose and from which they may suffer.

Many would like to have a greater option for themselves and their families to use more sustainable transport and to have more people-friendly communities. They might not want scarce public money to be squandered on road building, or the damage to public health and the local and global environment from current levels of car use. Although they may be a minority of the motoring public, they are still motorists and want a more civilised, less car-centred society: they have had a war against them.But that’s not what the Minster is talking about. So perhaps the following could be pointed out – and they really are just a few parts of the story:

These are a few points which could be brought to the attention of the Minister. As with so much in transport policy and road safety, what we have is not so much a mistake as – this needs to be repeated – an inversion of reality.

Continue reading

Bicycle Politics Conference at Lancaster University

boris-johnson-and-bob-davis

RDRF Chair Dr. Robert Davis was privileged to give not just one but two papers at this conference hosted by Drs. Dave Horton and Aurora Pereira-Trujillo at the Centre for Mobilities Research last month. One was on the general principles of Road Danger Reduction, the other on cycling in London (see photo above: I’m the one doing something funny with his hands, I can’t remember what). For a report go to http://thinkingaboutcycling.wordpress.com/2010/10/01/bicycle-politics-workshop-report/ and while you’re there, take a look at Dave Horton’s blog “Thinking about Cycling” http://thinkingaboutcycling.wordpress.com/, particularly the excellent article “Fear of Cycling”.

RD 2nd October 2010