Traffic reduction’s like dieting – drive less and exercise more. Simple – or is it? No it’s harder as travel structures and norms don’t fully support the healthiest choices. Yet climate issues are pressing and we’re afraid of injuries and dirty air.
First some scene setting facts. There are 38M vehicles registered in the UK. Mileage is rising 1% pa. 250M car journeys here are under 1 km. Road crashes kill about 1,720 people pa, whilst air pollution related deaths are estimated at 40,000-60,000 pa. Inactivity is responsible for 1 in 6 deaths (equivalent to smoking) about 80,000-90,000 a year. Inactivity is less than 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a week.
Individuals cannot fix the traffic ‘estate’ we’re in. Solutions can’t be engineered either – there isn’t the engineers or time! Wide-reaching, population level public health changes are needed now. We know what to do. The block is political! Politicians must tax motoring, prioritise road safety, healthy streets and ecological travel.
Sticks include: default 20mph limits (where trip time is not much affected so this is politically the easiest to do); reallocate space to green modes; pedestrianisation; full/partial road blocks, partial bridge closures; fuel duty escalator: congestion charging/tolls; low emission zones; low traffic neighbourhoods; school streets; workplace parking levy; scrappage; fierce parking restrictions; pay per mile driving; huge offence fines eg for drink/drug driving, speeding, Heavier taxes on polluting cars like diesels (which emit 10 times rates of petrol car pollution). And enforce fines on idling, pavement parking; strict liability (heaviest vehicle is to blame); educate on driving’s cons and end road building!
Carrots: slower limits; ideally free/subsidised are: renationalise public transport, cycle/hire; cycle training; personal alarms; traffic free infrastructure; home zones; pool cars; car clubs, lift share and hitch promotion; cross ticketing; travel plan perks; personalised travel planning; green travel allowances; job adverts praising eco-transport, park & ride; home working/video conferencing, home delivery. Education on the pros of non car modes and carrying equipment like trailers, shopping trolleys. Parklets, benches etc for a better public realm. Also wider pavements, more crossings, longer light phases, street lighting and not turning the clocks back so it is lighter later.
Exercising more happens when our confidence in our own ecological travel and in allowing vulnerable people to travel actively or use public transport rises. Enforced 20mph limits work ideally with a Vision Zero policy (no deaths or serious injuries). Key are strong street bullying enforcement on speeders, drink, drug or tired drivers, phone texting, cat calling, street assault. Free dashboard cameras help.
When speed drops, even a bit, risks hugely reduce – 1mph less in towns is 6% fewer injured. At 30mph half of 60+ year olds die if hit.
Likelihood of severe or fatal injury for pedestrians struck by drivers traveling at these speeds
In-car speed limiters become law for new cars in 2022.
What can you do? Go green, learn to cut your car use. If driving, drive slower. Set the pace behind. Ask your Police Commissioner to enforce. Do speed watch and report speeders, ideally with videos.
Register to vote. Use your voice. Ask for change to fund speed and traffic reduction as well as clean air policies.
Vote for politicians who promise sticks and carrots for green transport change. Join 20’s Plenty for Us for free (email me email@example.com) and campaign for 20mph as the first stage.
Cutting Your Car Use Book /pdf/ ebook £4.95 – (55p in bulk). Add up car costs worksheets: http://cuttingyourcaruse.co.uk/costs.htm
 Tefft, Brian C. Impact Speed and a Pedestrian’s Risk of Severe Injury or Death, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Washington DC, September, 2011