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?
Churchill in 1911 (Photo: Daily Mail)
“Few accidents arise… from ignorance of how to drive, and a much more frequent cause of disaster is undue proficiency leading to excessive adventure”. Winston Churchill, then Home Secretary, responding to a 1911 TUC delegation demanding the introduction of a driving test.
As we approach the 80th anniversary of the compulsory driving test in the UK, there will be some discussion of how there could be modifications of the current driving test. There will be calls for a ”graduated driving test” and possibly even the argument that drivers should retake “the test”.
I take a different approach. I argue that, however much it has been modified or tweaked, the role of the “test” is actually to boost the sense of entitlement of drivers – encouraging the sense of “undue proficiency” that Churchill perceptively noticed. Whatever benefits it may have are thus diminished, and I doubt whether it has a significant – or indeed perhaps any – overall function as a means of controlling road danger.
Saying this is rather taboo, but I think that this taboo needs to be broken. Let’s see how the compulsory driving test for motorists is in many ways part of the problem of danger on the roads. Below I enclose what I wrote about “the test” in 1992 (fully referenced version here)Page 108 – 111, and then I see whether anything has changed since then. Continue reading
A Porsche has been driven over the footway and into the Gerrards Cross branch of Cafe Nero, temporarily trapping two customers. No charge has been made by Thames Valley police, who are quoted as saying that the incident is “not thought to be suspicious”.
In this essay I examine this and a few similar incidents to see how the authorities accept and tolerate obvious rule and law breaking by motorists. As well as the Police services involved, the official “road safety” authorities in highway engineering collude and connive with this sort of violent behaviour. There is little comment on these incidents to challenge what appears to be the dominant narrative of tolerance of this behaviour, not least the type of language involved.
I challenge that narrative below, and argue against the dominant approach to these incidents, as well as the tolerance of them by the authorities. I think it indicates that in a crucial respect – the apparent acceptance of rule and law breaking by people simply because they have chosen to drive – this society is fundamentally uncivilised. Continue reading
Photos: AA Charitable Trust
One million wing-mirror stickers are being sent out by the AA to remind drivers to watch out for two-wheelers on the road. The campaign is based on a poll for the AA showing that nine out of ten motorists admit that when driving, “it is sometimes hard to see cyclists”, with 55 percent of motorists claiming that they are often “surprised when a cyclist appears from nowhere.” It’s nice to see AA president Edmund King say that: “The AA Think Bikes campaign is definitely needed when half of drivers are often surprised when a cyclist or motorcyclist ‘appears from nowhere’. Those on two wheels never appear from nowhere (our emphasis) so as drivers we need to be more alert to other road users and this is where our stickers act as a daily reminder”.
So is this an unequivocal step forward? The main feature of this, as with so many other similar campaigns, is what it tells us about the beliefs underlying what passes for “road safety” – beliefs which we have to challenge.
So let’s take a look at the campaign and what underlies it in some detail: Continue reading
We have posted on the “Get Britain Cycling” enquiry before – and although regrettably we were not called to give evidence, some good contributions have been made to the enquiry. In this post – after asking you support EDM 679 directly or through the CTC – we give a view on two talking points that have arisen: The revelation for some MPs that the police do not enforce road traffic law, specifically 20 mph limits (who knew?) and the AA president gratifying some cyclists by saying that drivers shouldn’t threaten to kill them (which we’re supposed to be impressed by?) Continue reading
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
By any measures that make sense, anyway, the costs of motoring since the era of Blair and Prescott (1997) and from 2000 can be seen to have gone down. This is according to two tables of statistics publcihed by the Department for Transport Continue reading