Wednesday, October 03, 2018

We Are Traffic

Some trees, no cars.
We are traffic.

Have you ever stopped for a few moments to consider how the world around you would look if there were no cars? Try it now (well, not now, but in a few minutes after you have read this) – step out into your road and imagine that all the cars were gone. Perhaps you could let your imagination run riot and imagine each car replaced with a tree. Splashes of green where now there is garish metal, plastic, rubber and rust. Imagine a street were you can walk to the shops, or the bus down a pathway between shrubs, birds singing, children cycling and playing. It would be nice wouldn’t it?

But that’s not what we have. Instead we have more and more cars and a whole industry geared up to convincing us that we all need to own one, and drive it pointlessly around and around, because that’s cool, isn’t it? We need connectivity to our phones and wi-fi on tap, even though vehicles kill roughly 1,700 people every year in the UK (that's 1.25 million worldwide, equalling the total deaths from the First World War roughly every 15 years) and mobile phone usage in cars, vans and lorries is a big contributor to that.

Also, dunno if you’ve noticed this, but there is a lot of column inches (is that still a thing) being devoted to air pollution these days. Where does this blight on our, our children and old folks lives come from?

We are pollution.

And while we are thinking about it. When was the last time that driving a car was actually fun? Personally it was a long time ago, when I was young and foolish. The world feels different now, and even with all their much publicised problems, the train feels like much more pleasant option these days. You can read a book (is that still a thing) and go on Instagram without endangering everyone around you.

So what can be done? It seems to me that people are not keen to change their behaviour if it feels inconvenient to them in any way. Even though walking, cycling or taking public transport are either good for you, or good for the world, if you can just jump in your car to drive round the block, why would you give that up? Look at the plastic bag situation. For many years we’ve known that single use plastic bags were a blight on our world. Blowing around the countryside, strangling life and shredding into a billion invisible pieces that we now ingest with almost every mouthful. But did anyone change their behaviour until a tax was put on them? Well some did. In fact, I still mourn the fact that you used to get Tesco Clubcard points (other supermarket point based schemes are available) for every bag you re-used. Gone is the carrot, all hail the stick. And lo and behold bag usage is down to, oh you know just the odd 1.04 billion per year (it was 7.6 billion in 2014, but f**k me that still seems a lot). So I’m thinking that we need government to act if we are to have any chance with reducing pointless car journeys.

Here’s some thoughts then, let me know if you think any of these might tempt you out of your car and onto your feet.
  1. Increased Council Charge for any households with more than one car registered to the household
  2. Decreased Council Charge for any households with no cars registered there
  3. Raise the age you can start driving to 18
  4. Give free bicycles to 16 year olds
  5. Hell, give a free bicycle to everyone who wants one, they are a couple of hundred quid each. Anyone know how much one car costs us in road repairs, infrastructure, pollution and hospital bills per year? 
  6. Free bus passes to anyone who doesn’t own a car
  7. Mandatory buy-back scheme for the worst polluters, turning the scrap metal into, well bicycles seems an obvious fit
  8. Increase fuel duty
  9. Re-introduce road tax charging it by the mile
  10. Ban car adverts that show people driving pointlessly around and around unrealistically empty streets, or over the countryside (just see how many of these you notice now)
  11. Hell, ban all car adverts
I could go on. I probably will. But even if all that seems unpalatable to you, at least remember one thing. This isn’t someone else’s problem. If you own a car (and I do, although I seldom use it these days), then this is your problem and one day our kids will ask us what we did about it.

We are traffic.

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