World Transport Policy & Practice. Vol. 25 No. 3. July 2019

WTPP cover 2019 Vol. 25, No. 3


* * * Full report here:

25.3  Editorial

In the very first issue of this journal (volume 1, number 1, 1995) we published 8 articles that are still as relevant today as they were in 1995.  They discuss some of the most important themes in what we would now call sustainable transport, liveable cities or active travel.  All the articles are well worth re-reading and using in the debate around zero carbon transport.  The article by Professor Helmut Holzapfel “Violence and the car”  raised an important  issue that still goes unrecognised in the discussion around transport, cars, subsidy, road building and the promotion of a technology that rings with it serious societal, behavioural and psychological disturbances.

Holzapfel insights are dramatic and identify the need for an entirely new transport and mobility paradigm.  He says:

“The term violence should be used carefully. Many people drive their cars intending no harm. But automobile driving, in its existing form, is anything but a rational phenomenon with the purpose of getting from A to B: cars designed for speeds at which they hardly ever travel, European cities ripe for good pedestrian development relinquishing their urban charm to chunks of metal – the hallmarks of the car-centred society are all too conspicuous, and its uses by no means compensate for them. The negative influences of the car-centred society are enormous. Indeed car technology resembles no other, not even the technology of war, in the destructive influences it has so far inflicted.

Since the Second World War, more than half-a-million people have been killed on the streets of Germany alone, and the number of animals killed is even higher. The thousands of paralysed and severely brain-damaged represent only the tip of the iceberg of the non-fatal accidents.

Despite all protestations to the contrary, the automobile based society is spreading further and further; along with the ever-growing number of cars is an increase in the hunks of metal standing around the towns. This further promotes a general ugliness and inhumanity”

Our cover image for this issue illustrates one of many dimensions of “ugliness and inhumanity” and “the hunks of metal standing around the towns”.   A pleasant city centre street in the very pleasant town of Shrewsbury, England (population c70, 000) shows the daily reality of cars filling every available space, cars blocking pedestrian space so that children have to walk in the road space and mix with lumps of metal travelling at more than 40kph, cars that make it impossible for disabled groups (e.g. wheelchair users) to move around safely and cars that physically block the entrances to homes.  This is worse than ugly.  It is a serious attack on pedestrians, children, older people and the quality of life of those living on this street, and all the others streets just like this.  It is unethical, unreasonable, unacceptable, damaging to public health and ignored by Shropshire Council, the local authority responsible for highways, transport, streets, air quality and road safety.

Whether or not this is violence I will leave to others but it is a daily insult and an attack on quality of life. It produces an increase in the chances of death and injury to those who wish to walk and cycle.  It increases air pollution and CO2 emissions as the result of the struggle by drivers to park on pedestrian pavements and move forwards and backwards (several times) in their desperation to park where it is free to park.  All those that live on this street (including 5 children) are bathed in lung-damaging pollution and the physical blockages to gates and entrance to homes is insulting, offensive and unacceptable.  Unsurprisingly it is permitted by the local authority responsible for streets.  Shropshire Council was informed of the seriousness of the problem on 13 March 2019 and has done nothing to carry out its legal duties reacted to air pollution and road safety.

This is the reality of car ownership and use and it is clear that drivers do not care at all about residents, children, the disabled and the health of those who live on this street or use it as a walking route and not caring at all for the welfare of people and small children is as close as it matters to Holzapfel’s description of the “car as violence”.

We have devoted 24 years of this journal describing in detail the disbenefits of policy and spending that encourages car use and provides eye-wateringly large subsidies to promote car use (EEA, 2007).  We have described the enormous external costs of road transport (those costs not paid for by the driver including congestion, air pollution, health damage and climate damaging emissions).  The total external costs of transport in the EU28 are estimated at 987 billion Euros per annum European Commission, 2019).  More importantly we have described the large number of sustainable transport and active travel policy interventions that will reduce this economic inefficiency, reduce air pollution and deliver zero carbon transport.  There is no excuse for any policy maker to ignore evidence and insight and by default choose the dirty, polluting, health damaging options in transport policy.

In this issue we publish two more of the remarkable reports from John Roberts of the TEST consultancy.  Roberts was decades ahead of his time and by the mid 1980s he had clearly identified  the many flaws in the transport paradigm he observed and suggested ways in which  we can increase accessibility and promote quality of life by changing that paradigm.  Policy makers are still stuck in the paradigm that was promoted by Henry Ford which is characterised by mass motorisation, extermination of alternatives to the car and continuous expansion of road space and parking space.

This issue also includes an examination of aviation and the possibilities around behavioural change in the direction of flying less. This resonates well with another of our themes which is how we should go about shaping a future where we rely on the car less, irrespective of its fuel or engine. This subject is more important than ever if we are to have any chance at all of dealing with the climate emergency.

Finally we include a book review by Eric Bruun, Kyyti Group, Ltd., Helsinki of, Trains, Buses, People: An Opinionated Atlas of US Transit Island Press.  The book and the review draw attention to some of the successes of public transport systems in the USA and some of the barriers to achieving a real transformation of mobility in the home of Henry Ford.



EEA (2007) Size, structure and distribution of transport subsidy in Europe, European Environment Agency, EEA Technical Report No 3/2007 Copenhagen

European Commission (2019) Sustainable Transport Infrastructure Charging and internalisation of transport externalities

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About the editor:

john whiteleggManaging 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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About the editor of World Streets

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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