Debate 3 - Paper 3

Urban transport - Going nowhere fast?

Charles Secrett, Executive Director, Friends of the Earth; Member, UK Round Table on Sustainable Development (Chair, Subgroup on sustainable transport sector)

My main argument will be that current transport policies and patterns of movement are unsustainable, in environmental, economic and social terms. Society cannot continue to bear the costs of its over reliant dependence on the car and lorry, whether that cost is measured in terms of lost economic productivity due to congestion; environmental damage including unsustainable rates of greenhouse gas and other health threatening pollution emissions or the loss of nationally important wildlife habitats; the estimated deaths and serious illness rates caused by traffic pollution, along with the growing deaths and serious injury rates for road users like cyclists and pedestrians; or, with the growing deaths and serious injury rates for road users like cyclists and pedestrians; or, the adverse impacts of noise or social severance.

With current traffic levels set to double over the next 25-30 years, society must act to correct this over-weaning dependence on cars and lorries. In essence, we need transport policies and travel patterns that are based on increasing accessibility, rather than mobility. Architects, planners and engineers have a prime role to play, along with politicians, civil servants and the population at large, in bringing this transition about.

For example, architects and planners can work to ensure that the places we live, work and play reduce the need to travel by private car for many standard journeys; and, that alternative ways of moving about are provided, and to the same standard people associate with their cars i.e. that public transport systems or facilities for cyclists and walkers, are as efficient, reliable, safe, convenient and affordable as private transport is perceived to be.

Similarly, engineers can both design and build cards and lorries to minimise their environmental and social impact, by making them non-polluting, and out of materials that can be recycled and reused, to the highest fuel efficiency standards, and quieter. Public transport systems and vehicles should be designed and built along similar principles, and be as easy to use for a parent with heavy shopping bags and two kids, or an old aged pensioner, as they are for a fit and unencumbered single adult. Finally, roads must be guaranteed in their design and sitting not to traverse or threaten important wildlife, archaeological or other sites of cultural or environmental significance.

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