New Politics, New Economics and New Mobility : Frugal Transport comes of age in Britain?

John Whitelegg, Editor of World Transport Policy and Practice, offers up a lead editorial in the latest edition of the Journal which was published today and is freely available here. His proposal makes particular economic sense at a time of great economic uncertainty, and of course not only in the UK. His core recommendation: (a) Cancel systematically all public investments that do not pass the sustainability test. What goes? (b) £10 billion for unnecessary road building. (c) £32 billion for uncalled for high speed rail. And (d) elimination of all but a handful of domestic aviation subsidies and investments. And with those frugal savings, the new government team can really go to work to guarantee the sustainable transport agenda.

A New Deal for British transport:

A beginners guide to sorting out fiscal, social, economic and health problems through transport measures

– John Whitelegg, Editor, World Transport Policy and Practice

On Thursday 13th May 2010 a new government in Britain began making its first decisions. Amongst these decisions was the abandonment of a 3rd runway at Heathrow Airport and the cancellation of any new runways at Gatwick and Stansted. The fact that the new government is the first coalition government since the second world war has excited fear and uncertainty as well as hope for a “new politics” but we shall see.

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition labelled somewhat unkindly as the “Con-dem” coalition by the Labour Party has enormous potential to get things right so here are a few tips in the best tradition of World Transport Policy and Practice and its 15 years of efforts to inform policy:

1. Cancel the complete road building programme and motorway widening programme and use the (approx) £10 billion to reduce public expenditure and/or reallocate to highway maintenance so that road conditions improve.

2. Cancel the complete high speed rail programme. 1% of all trips in the UK are longer than 100 miles and there is no satisfactory rationale for spending £32 billion of public money to encourage rich people to travel faster and more often to and from London.

3. Implement full internalisation of external cost on domestic aviation through emission charging and implement strict noise and air quality regulations around airports to protect local residents from health damaging environments.

4. Announce that it is the view of the new coalition government to eliminate domestic aviation apart from those services connecting remote Scottish Islands and similar communities elsewhere in the UK.

5. Implement system-wide reform in all UK urban areas to deliver a “202020” vision for cycling – 20% of all trips in all urban areas will be by bicycle by 2020. System- wide reform means general 30kph/20mph speed limits, road closures to reduce rat running and highly connected public services and destinations. All UK cities can be like Freiburg, Basle and Copenhagen. The missing ingredient is political will.

6. De-commission 50% of car parking spaces in urban areas and reallocate the released land for high quality, car free, affordable housing.

7. Implement a serious road user hierarchy so that every junction and every highway link delivers absolute consideration for pedestrians and cyclists and puts car users at the bottom of the list. The road user hierarchy is illustrated and described in the Department for Transport Manual for Streets (DfT, 2007).

8. Introduce land value taxation to produce funds for new public transport infrastructure.

9. Require a year on year increase in accessibility by foot, bike and public transport to all health, education, employment and recreational facilities.

10. Set a target of achieving the rule of one third for urban areas: all efforts will be made to deliver a modal split in urban areas of one third of trips walk/cycle, one third public transport and one third by car.

11. Set high standards of public transport provision for rural public transport and establish the position that the car is not the default option for rural areas. In case of doubt please will Ministers visit Dornach and Gempen near Basle in Switzerland to see what is meant by “high standards”.

This list has been sent to the new Minister of Transport of the new UK government. We await his answer with great anticipation.

DfT (2007) Manual for Streets (para 3.6.8)

Note to the reader from the author:
“Let’s invite comment, rebuttal, ask for other ideas out there. Why not do some role playing along the lines “OK so its the morning after the night before and you are the new Minister of Transport and you have the support of your prime minister and all the cabinet. What are you going to do to sort out our long term transport problems and the way they interact with a wide range of health, social and economic problems? The time for dithering is over. You must act! What will you do?”

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World Transport Policy and Practice. Volume 16. Number 1 May 2010

A free copy of this latest volume is available here.

Abstracts & Keywords

Cycling in New York: Innovative Policies at the Urban Frontierf

John Pucher, Lewis Thorwaldson, Ralph Buehler, and Nicholas Klein

New York has made impressive progress at improving cycling conditions and raising cycling levels in recent years, especially in Brooklyn and Manhattan. The number of bike trips has almost doubled since 2000, thanks to vastly expanded cycling infrastructure, including innovative treatments such as cycle tracks, buffered bike lanes, special bike signals, bike boxes at intersections, and bright green lane markings.

Cycling safety has improved, with steady or declining numbers of cyclist injuries and fatalities in spite of rapidly rising cycling volumes. Some serious deficiencies remain, however. Integration of bicycling with public transport is almost nonexistent. There is not nearly enough bike parking, and virtually no secure bike parking at all. Moreover, the police and courts in New York have failed to enforce the many traffic laws intended to protect cyclists.

Comprehensive traffic calming is needed in New York’s residential neighbourhoods to reduce travel speeds and thus encourage more cycling, in particular, by children, seniors, and women. Cycling has come a long way in New York, but it still has a long way to go before it becomes a mainstream way to get around.

Keywords: bicycling, cycle paths, infrastructure, cycling safety, policy, New York City, gender, bike parking, sustainable transport

Youth transport, mobility and security in sub-Saharan Africa: the gendered journey to school

– Gina Porter, Kate Hampshire, Albert Abane, Alister Munthali, Elsbeth Robson, Mac Mashiri and Augustine Tanle

This paper draws on empirical data from a three-country study (Ghana, Malawi, South Africa) of young people’s mobility to explore the gendered nature of children’s journeys to school in sub- Saharan Africa. Gender differences in school enrolment and attendance in Africa are well established: education statistics in many countries indicate that girls’ participation in formal education is often substantially lower than boys’, especially at secondary school level.

Transport and mobility issues commonly form an important component of this story, though the precise patterning of the transportation and mobility constraints experienced by girl schoolchildren, and the ways in which transport factors interact with other constraints, varies from region to region. In some contexts the journey to school represents a particularly hazardous enterprise for girls because they face a serious threat of rape. In other cases girls’ journeys to school and school attendance are hampered by Africa’s transport gap and cultural conventions which require females to take on this burden (by pedestrian head loading) before leaving for (or instead of attending) school.

Our evidence comes from a diverse range of sources but, for reasons of space, we draw principally here on a survey questionnaire conducted in each country with approximately 1000 children aged 7-18 years across 8 sites. We aim to draw attention to the diversity of gendered travel experiences across geographical locations (paying attention to associated patterns of transport provision), to explore the implications of these findings for access to education, and to suggest areas where policy intervention could be beneficial.

Keywords: children’s journey to school, sub-Saharan Africa, gender, threat, transport, mobility, cultural conventions, education, policy

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John Whitelegg is visiting Professor of Sustainable Transport at Liverpool John Moores University and Professor of Sustainable Development at University of York’s Stockholm Environment Institute, and is founder and editor of the Journal of World Transport Policy and Practice. John is a local councillor in Lancaster.

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