The vibrant debate (and sometimes open war) that goes on over our habitat and environment is marred both by entrenchment and by the piggy-back ride enjoyed by politics. Some refuse to compromise, and others wish to “hard sell” their own view of how we all should live. The word ‘should’ is here deeply deprecated.
But it remains remains useful to draw out certain conclusions that emerge from The Cost of the Car, both with regard to what has gone wrong, and with regard to changes to which few can reasonable object. It seems to me that :
- we have become too reliant upon a single mode of transport — the private car on the public road
- transport incurs too great a cost upon our safety, health, resources, and environment
- the design of our habitat incurs too much travel and too little society
- travel has become unacceptably slow, expensive, and arduous
- we greatly prefer private transport, wherever possible.
It is no use campaigning against the car and trying to coerce, or even force, people onto buses. First, the bus is no solution anyway — it is slow, expensive, inefficient, and polluting. Second, few people like them. Third, we surely grant authority to others to lay paths we wish to tread, not to impose their will upon us. The car does embody and symbolize liberty.
But liberty surely must include choice. Inhabitants of sprawl have but one transport option. Those denied a driving licence have no option at all. Also, liberty cannot extend to the destruction of life, health, community, and environment.
To this end, some policy options are suggested :
- enforce and tighten the law on the road, including speed limits
- end zoning, allowing a return to mixed use in every new development
- introduce universal dynamic road-space charging to eliminate congestion
- prioritize walking and cycling over motor vehicles on the highway (including crossings)
- introduce universal “planning gain” to pay for all infrastructure, including transport investment.
A short safe walk to school or work, breathing clean air in a tranquil environment, could be a reality for our children.