Author Archives: rdrfuk

June 3rd 2020 – Crunch time for Active/Sustainable Travel in the UK

This is the latest update on my post  here on Transport in the time of the COVID-19 crisis. The previous update can be seen here. Below is a version of my presentation which you can see from 1.42 on You Tube here

This may seem dramatic, but we are now seeing the best – and only – window of opportunity for sustainable/active travel in the UK to really advance during the last few decades. As explained below, this is dependent onlocal authorities in the UK properly providing for walking and cycling in accordance with Government requirements. There is a lot of work to be done in persuading many that this really has to be done – for air quality, congestion reduction, any serious prospect of addressing climate change, public health and the local environment.

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“…this should be a new golden age for cycling…”

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

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Transport in the time of the Coronavirus crisis: what we need to do NOW.

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.

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“Reducing road danger: Empowering local communities in London”

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.

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What’s wrong with electric cars? Are they a (small) step forward or a red herring?

Any contemporary discussion about the environmental, health and social problems associated with mass car use will inevitably turn to electric vehicles (EVs). Plainly there may be some advantages to their use compared to that of current petrol or diesel (ICE) cars – but how much? More importantly, does the focus on EVs overall hold the potential for being a major diversion from where our concerns should be, rather than their use being some kind of step forward. Will EVs turn out to be a part of the problem rather than its solution?


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Without tackling car culture we won’t make headway with road danger reduction

(This article appeared in the 19th July 2019 issue of Local Transport Today as “Viewpoint” – online here)

Last week Lord Berkeley retired after 26 years as President of the Road Danger Reduction Forum (RDRF). So what has been achieved since we were set up in 1993? Is road danger being properly addressed? And since governance of policy on safety on the road is always part of wider transport policy, is the way our society views transport what we need for the 21st century? Despite some positive developments, the answer for both is no.

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