Category Archives: Health

“The True Costs of Automobility: External Costs of Cars”

First, the good news: another academic study  using conventional cost-benefit analysis finds that motorists in the 27 EU countries have a net economic cost to society, with the UK second only to Germany in costs. Take a look at the nice short summary  in the Guardian. It’s good to counteract what the Guardian correctly calls “The perennial complaint from drivers that they are excessively taxed”, not least the prejudice that cyclists are cheating by “not paying a tax”. The figure given for these external costs – £48 billion per annum, some £10 billion more than the total of motoring taxation revenue – looks pretty damning. However, it can be argued that the costs of motoring to society are considerably greater than those in the picture painted in the study, and that the report is inadequately critical of the status quo.

Let’s look at the report in a bit more detail. Continue reading

Why Bradley Wiggins is so wrong: Part Three: Should cyclists be allowed to wear helmets?

Let’s get to the core of Bradley Wiggins’ (since partly retracted) comments which have caused such frenzied debate. We are actually going to have a brief look at the accumulated evidence on the
effects of cycle helmet wear – something which is rarely done. What this indicates is a remarkable lack of evidence of benefits. (This is apart from the diversionary – “red herring” – and the “dangerising “effects of helmet advocacy which are themselves worryingly negative.)
Although my view is that cyclists should indeed be allowed to wear helmets, this is on the basis of allowing all kinds of behaviours which have minimal, zero, or indeed negative benefits for the
user. It would be quite possible for “road safety” professionals with a commitment to prohibiting certain behaviours to do so. The point is to show the absence of positive evidence and to open the Pandora’s Box of road user response to danger, as we do below… Continue reading

The London Cycling Campaign and what cyclists in London want

The continuing saga of Blackfriars Bridge has revealed a more high profile and combative London Cycling Campaign, preparing a new strategy for the organisation the year before the Mayoral elections. Will this be the way towards getting “the cyclised City”?

Consider LCC CEO Ashok Sinha’s approach as described in London Cyclist June-July 2011 (pp.16 – 18). Having stated that London is indisputably not a cyclised city, and not on a trajectory towards becoming one, how are we to remedy the situation (an issue we have addressed before here , here ,  and here ? The answer for him is “everythingContinue reading

Conniving with Violence?: Part Two

Here are some additions to the previous post which should help you deal with the inevitable opposition. Any suggestion that idiot-proofing the car environment (as shown in the Horizon film) is anything less than positive will be met by one crucial argument.
This argument is this: Measures such as seat belts, roll bars, air bags, collapsible steering wheels are the main reason (along with highway engineering such as cutting down roadside trees, installing crash barriers, anti-skid treatments etc.) are the main reason why road traffic deaths per motor vehicle distance travelled have declined through the twentieth century in countries experiencing motorisation.
This argument is wrong: take a look here for a very brief explanation why. Continue reading

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