No one is waging war on motorists – but maybe we should be

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Last November 14 Conservative MPs from the all-party parliamentary group “Fair Fuel for UK Motorists and Caruliers” wrote Transport Minister Grant Chapps to complain about bike lanes, and on October 25, 2021. extension the ultra-low emission zone in London (which, given the attention to detail that great drivers have demanded for decades, they mistakenly combined with the congestion charge zone).

They were supported by the Road Carriers Association, the British Drivers’ Alliance and Fair Fuel UK, a group of lobbyists with a definition of “fairness” that doesn’t seem to go far beyond “paying a lower tax” (the fuel tax has not been raised since 2009), and some prankster recently appeared at its frontman’s house. marked as a petrol station on Google Maps in the midst of a gas shortage. The letter is titled: “A homeless war with a motorist.” The history of the Minister of Transport’s responses is not recorded.

This kind of warfare has been a characteristic feature of right-wing mythology for decades. But it must be said that this is a fun kind of war, as roughly 80 percent of the adult population can drive, and the siege side seems to be doing most of the running. Many of the bold plans to widen sidewalks or create cycle lanes laid out in the early months of the pandemic have been canceled, if they ever actually took place at all. Shapps spent several million pounds in May 2020 to improve public transport and cycling infrastructure; but this is only a fraction of the £ 1 billion set aside to convert the single A66 road from Workington to Middlesbrough into a two-way carriageway.

This year since Policeman26 The government is trying to make cars cleaner by replacing gasoline-powered cars with electric ones, but is doing nothing to discourage their use. Meanwhile, Andy Street, the Tory mayor of the West Midlands, stands ready to approve the £ 2.5bn receipt. electric gigafactory on a plot near Coventry airport. The location seems oddly symbolic as Coventry spent much of the 20th century cheerfully replacing the city’s famous medieval architecture in order to build more roads. then blaming it on the Luftwaffe

In any case: if there is a war with the motorist, it is a war that the motorist wins, and does so with the active support of the British government.

This is a shame, because there are many good reasons to think that a civilization built on the expectation that most of us have our own ton of metal to move around was a bad idea. Namely:

1) They waste a lot of space. Look at the street closest to you. See how much space it makes for vehicles – both moving and stationary – compared to the space it gives up to other forms of road users.

There’s a reason for this: it takes a lot more space to move a certain number of people by car than any other form of transport, and these cars spend most of their time just parked, taking up space. The advent of self-driving cars will solve the second of these problems, although perhaps less than its proponents think; but at first it won’t do anything. All of these cars take up space that was then not available for anything else.

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2) They waste a lot of energy. Let’s imagine that we have actually made the transition from fossil fuels to electric vehicles. It’s still quite a lot of energy to push the big shiny boxes we could significantly reduce through increased use of bicycles, pedestrians and well-planned public transport.

3) They pollute. Even if they are powered by batteries, the creation of energy flowing into these batteries may result in contamination. And even if they don’t, cars kick up dust and debris just by moving around. The electric car revolution won’t suddenly force people to live next to a main road.

4) Look, car-free places are just better, okay? Have you ever been on vacation in a medieval city, say, in Spain, and noticed that their cities seem a little better than ours? I bet that if you think back to that city, you will realize that one of the things that made it so beautiful was that there were no cars in it.

(Coventry, by the way, recently tried undo most of the damage it was made by city planners in the 20th century. Unfortunately, no one told the city of Westminster which locked plans to Oxford Street pedestrianized and newly opened Soho to traffic every evening. Come on, our weather isn’t quite right for street cafes anyway.)

Finally:

5) They kill people. Not always, of course, but often enough that it is, of course, worth mentioning at least. This is not a good thing.

Ending car addiction is not something that can be done overnight. Too often, our homes, workplaces and shops are too far apart, and little thought is given to how to get between them without personal transportation. And there are trips and circumstances where private cars will remain the best option, no matter what we do with our cities.

However, the world we are trying to reduce our dependence on cars is a world that is healthier, cleaner, more beautiful, and makes room for housing, business, parks, or any other thing that really makes places in worth living. …

No, there is no war with a motorist. But it was time.

[See also: Golf’s stranglehold on land in London should be broken]

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