World Transport Policy & Practice. Twentieth anniversary issue. Editorial by John Whitelegg, Founding Editor

f1fa6-ws-pic-whiteleggThis issue of World Transport Policy and Practice is a significant milestone in the life of the journal. It marks 20 years of publication and for anyone with a serious interest in understanding the importance of transport, the links between transport, mobility and accessibility and the links with sustainability, health and quality of life, there is more than enough material here to work on.

At the outset we chose to emphasise the word “policy” and that remains a strong focus. 20 years of publication have examined policy in detail, more often the lack of intelligent policy, but always with a keen eye on “this is what we have to do if we want to improve things”. There is now no excuse for anyone anywhere in the world to sit at his or her desk on a Monday morning and wonder how to sort things out. The answers lie in our freely available archives.

In one important sense the journal has failed. We wanted to improve policy and reveal really good ideas on how to do this to a wider audience because we thought this would help and it didn’t. The missing link is willingness to do something and we don’t yet know how to nurture and embed “will” in a wider decision-making, political and societal process.

The very old saying “you can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink” must have been coined by people at the sharp end of sustainable transport. Globally we are drowning in excellent material on sustainable transport and how to correct negative trends and how to produce huge gains for quality of life, health, community, air quality, poverty and accessibility. We know that current transport priorities and spending damage the quality of life of children and older people and we know how to correct that. We know how to de-carbonise transport so that this sector or segment of life actually works to solve problems rather than make them worse.

Harry Vallack and his colleagues in this issue have explained how this can be done. We know how to reduce death and injury on the roads and we know how to improve air quality and create lively, viable communities. All these topics have been covered in detail in our last 20 years. The reality is we are just not doing it.

In one important sense the journal has failed. We wanted to improve policy and reveal really good ideas on how to do this to a wider audience because we thought this would help and it didn’t. The missing link is willingness to do something and we don’t yet know how to nurture and embed “will” in a wider decision-making, political and societal process.

In the last 20 years over 20 million human beings have been brutally killed in the road traffic environment. Many more than this have died as a result of poor air quality that is dominated by vehicle exhaust emissions. The public policy response has been and still is truly pathetic and is a stain on our so-called civilisation.

Our approach to dealing with failure is the same as that adopted by William Wilberforce and his colleagues in the 20 years of anti-slavery activity leading to the abolition of the slave trade in 1807. Wilberforce was rebuffed, rejected and ridiculed many times but he remained steadfast. He believed slavery was wrong and he redoubled his efforts to eliminate this dreadful scourge. We do not equate our efforts with the abolition of slavery but the negative effects of unsustainable transport are a dreadful scourge and must be eliminated and just as we cannot now imagine why anyone supported slavery in the 1790s so in coming decades we will wonder why anyone supported mass, motorised mobility and cared so little for dead and broken bodies.

So, following the example of William Wilberforce our response to failure is to redouble our efforts. In this issue of World Transport Policy and Practice we present some first class insights, analyses and policy recommendations. We focus on how to de-carbonise our transport systems (Vallack and his colleagues), how to recognise the over-riding importance of transport systems that deliver outcomes benefitting those with hearing, visual and other characteristics that might render transport arrangements more difficult than they need be (Chris Cook). We examine the deeply flawed process of evaluating transport projects (Sudhir Gota) and show that the use of “do-nothing” in transport appraisal is plain wrong and we explore how to develop a deeper understanding of transport issue through a detailed disaggregated approach to age, gender, race/ethnicity and income (John Renne).

In the meantime if any of our readers have any suggestions about how we encourage the horse to drink when we have taken it to the water trough please let us know.

John Whitelegg
Founding Editor


* The full text of this latest edition of WTPP will be the topic of a World Streets feature in the coming days. Earlier editions of the jjournal are available at and via World Streets at


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About the author:

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.

About the journal:

World Transport Policy & Practice is a quarterly journal which provides a high quality medium for original and creative work in world transport.

WTPP has a philosophy based on the equal importance of academic rigour and a strong commitment to ideas, policies and practical initiatives that will bring about a reduction in global dependency on cars, lorries and aircraft.

WTPP has a commitment to sustainable transport which embraces the urgent need to cut global emissions of carbon dioxide, to reduce the amount of new infrastructure of all kinds and to highlight the importance of future generations, the poor, those who live in degraded environments and those deprived of human rights by planning systems that put a higher importance on economic objectives than on the environment and social justice.

WTPP embraces a different approach to science and through science to publishing. This view is based on an honest evaluation of the track record of transport planning, engineering and economics. All too often, these interrelated disciplines have embraced quantitative, elitist or mechanistic views of society, space and infrastructure and have eliminated people from the analysis.

To help it to reach a wide readership, encompassing advocates and activists as well as academics and advisers, WTPP is available free of charge.

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About the editor: 

Eric Britton
13, rue Pasteur. Courbevoie 92400 France

Bio: Founding editor of World Streets (1988), Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher, occasional consultant, and sustainability activist who has observed, learned, taught and worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. In the autumn of 2019, he committed his remaining life work to the challenges of aggressively countering climate change and specifically greenhouse gas emissions emanating from the mobility sector. He is not worried about running out of work. Further background and updates: @ericbritton | | #fekbritton | | and | Contact: | +336 508 80787 (Also WhatApp) | Skype: newmobility.)

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