“Important . . . but don’t do anything about it yet” World Transport Policy & Practice – Vol. 18, No. 3. June 2012

The Journal of World Transport Policy and Practice is the long-standing idea and print partner of World Streets and the New Mobility Agenda since 1995. The Spring 2012 edition appears with articles by Arlene Tigar McLaren and Sylvia Parusel, Alan Hallsworth and Alfred Wong, and Chris Gillham and Chris Rissel .  In the article that follows you will find the hard-hitting lead editorial by founding editor John Whitelegg, which ends with this statement: “The persistence of road traffic danger as a scourge and blight on the lives of millions is profoundly indicative of the lack of intelligence, ethics and common sense on the part of the vast majority of those making decisions about transport, traffic, budgets and quality of life.”  QED.

– – – > To obtain your copy of WTPP 18/3 click here.


– John Whitelegg, Editor

Three very different papers in this issue highlight some key issues in the global transport debate that sit in a file labelled “important but don’t do anything about it yet”.

The Australian cycling article by Gillham and Rissel reveals the disappointing picture around cycling take up and a decline in per capita cycling. This is a topic we have examined many times in this journal and repeat once again the nature of the basic problem. Cycling is not regarded as important by senior decision takers and politicians and is not allowed to take priority over motorised transport.

In any situation in any UK or Australian city where a discussion is underway about improving cycling facilities the question of space allocation will be raised and the overriding priority given to cars and lorries will be asserted. This results in poor quality cycling facilities and a total environment that restrains bike use.

The article by Hallsworth and Wong may appear to be a long way from cycling as it carries out a detailed forensic examination of the supply chain around tomato production and consumption but it tells us something very important indeed about transport ideology. Consumer preferences, marketing and corporate strategies have provided a powerful cocktail of circumstances that impose very large burdens on the road system.

There is a disconnect between the general conditions around production, consumption and logistics and its effects on road transport. We have far more lorries on the roads of the UK than we would have if these general system conditions changed to reduce lorry kilometres e.g. by the German lorry tax or by the substitution of “near” for “far” in food supply systems. Lorries are a very effective deterrent to cycling take up- hence the link between tomatoes and bikes.

Once again policy makers fail to grasp fundamental arrangements and circumstances that add to traffic flow and traffic danger and refuse to adopt road traffic danger reduction as a primary objective.

Lorries in London have killed over 220 pedestrians and cyclists since 2000 and even though lorries represent only 5% of trips in London they are involved in half to two thirds of cyclist deaths each year (Note 1). An intelligent transport policy that was seriously interested in promoting cycling would eliminate lorries wherever possible, give cyclists lorry-proof routes and equip lorries with cyclist detection technology. Fundamentally we have to change the supply systems described by Hallsworth and Wong and this in turn would increase cycling levels dealing with the problem raised by Gillham and Rissel.

The third paper by McLaren and Parusel emphasises the importance of road traffic danger, gender issues around safeguarding our children, the need to remove that danger and the overriding need to give children and parents a strong sense of safety and security on the everyday trips that form the bulk of our experience of road transport and degraded urban environments. The persistence of road traffic danger as a scourge and blight on the lives of millions is profoundly indicative of the lack of intelligence, ethics and common sense on the part of the vast majority of those making decisions about transport, traffic, budgets and quality of life.

It is perfectly clear that the only acceptable solution to road traffic danger is the Swedish “Vision Zero” road safety policy and its approach to setting targets and reviewing progress to make sure that we are all doing as much as possible to achieve zero deaths and zero serious injuries in the road traffic environment. Vision Zero is still absent in most countries around the world and even more worryingly is rejected by many road safety and transport professionals (Note 2).

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Note 1: See Me Save Me, RoadPeace Newsletter, Spring, 2012, Issue 33, page 20
Note 2: Whitelegg, J and Haq, G (2005) Vision Zero: adopting a target of zero for road traffic fatalities and serious injuries. A report for the UK Department for Transport. Stockholm Environment Institute, University of York (UK)


– – – > To obtain your copy of WTPP 18/1 click here.

* For a more complete introduction to World Transport click here.

Abstracts and keywords

Parental safeguarding children from road traffic: A global issue

– Arlene Tigar McLaren and Sylvia Parusel

This paper examines parental traffic safeguarding experiences in a high income country where the automobility system is well established, and explores how international traffic safety discourses that seek to prevent child death and injury in low- and middle-income countries have turned to western parental models of responsibility and blame. These practices and discourses, which are vital foundations to automobility, take their toll on parents (especially mothers) and children.

Our analysis suggests that for the sake of parents and children in countries around the world, land and transportation planners need to develop alternative designs to auto domination.

Keywords: parents, everyday traffic safeguarding practices, gender, social class, automobility, global

Fresh produce, the supply chain and the environment – a case study.

– Alan Hallsworth, Alfred Wong

In recent decades, British citizens have become accustomed to eating fresh produce on a year -round basis: the example that we take is tomatoes. Through changes to transportation logistics and advances in horticultural engineering, demand for these tomatoes may be met either from (heated) greenhouses or by field cropping in hot, arid countries. Our chosen case study location is Portsmouth in the south of England where we found that the magnitude of CO2 emissions was substantial for greenhouse-grown tomatoes.

The primary energy required in heating and lighting in British or Dutch greenhouses we estimated to be substantially greater than that required for the transportation of fieldgrown tomatoes from Spain. The purchase of seasonally-available tomatoes grown in open fields with a “100-mile” radius of Portsmouth was found to have the lowest avoidable emission of CO2.

As a part of citizens’ participation in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, it may also be time to re-rethink the wider implications of consuming fresh produce such as tomatoes on a year round basis. To propose solutions, however, requires us to look critically at the implications of the current supply chain.

Keywords: carbon dioxide, cropping, emission, energy, greenhouse, tomato, transportation

Australian per capita cycling participation in 1985/86 and 2011

– Chris Gillham, Chris Rissel

Cycling industry reports of significant bicycle sales in Australia suggest a boom in cycling participation. However, there are few systematic assessments of cycling in Australia allowing comparison over time. Two national surveys of cycling participation in Australia were examined. The earlier survey was of travel behaviour in 1985/86 and is the earliest known analysis of daily cyclist numbers in Australia.

The second is a telephone survey of cycling behavior in 2011 used by the Australian Government as the baseline for its cycling promotion strategy to 2016. Population growth from 1986 to 2010 and the bicycle mode share for the journey to work were also examined. The Australian population aged nine years and over grew by 58.4% between 1986 and 2010 and the daily average number of bicycle trips grew by only 20.9%, representing a per capita decline in cycling.

The proportion of Australian workers who used a bicycle to ride to work was largely unchanged at about 1% of journeys. A historical prioritization of the motor vehicle, lack of investment in cycling infrastructure and mandatory helmet legislation are likely to be explanatory factors.

Keywords: parents, everyday traffic, safeguarding practices, gender, social class, automobility, global

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About the authors:

Chris Gillham,
12 Hopetoun Terrace, Shenton Park
Western Australia 6008
phone +61 8 9380 4989

Chris Rissel,
Professor, School of Public Health,
University of Sydney,
Camperdown NSW 2050, Australia.
phone +61 2 9036 3133;
fax +61 2 9036 3184

Alan Hallsworth,
Portsmouth Business School,
University of Portsmouth,
Portsmouth, UK

Alfred Wong,
Friends of Aboriginal Health,
Vancouver, Canada

Arlene Tigar McLaren
Department of Sociology & Anthropology
Simon Fraser University
8888 University Drive
Burnaby, BC Canada V5A 1S6

Sylvia Parusel
Department of Sociology & Anthropology
Simon Fraser University
8888 University Drive
Burnaby, BC Canada V5A 1S6

About the editor:

 Managing Director of Eco-Logica, John Whitelegg is Visiting Professor of Sustainable Transport at Liverpool John Moores University, Professor of Sustainable Development at the Stockholm Environment Institute, and founder and editor of the Journal of World Transport Policy and Practice. Research interests encompass transport and the environment, definition of sustainable transport systems and a sustainable built environment, development of transport in third world cities focusing on the relationships between sustainability and human health, implementation of environmental strategies within manufacturing and service industry and development of environmental management standards. He has published widely on these topics. John is active in the Green party of England and Wales and is the national spokesperson on sustainable development.

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