Re: TRAFFIC_REDUCTION: Making transport an election issue
- Dear Anthony
How about an explanation like this.
No-one in power nor their academic supporters judged how much cars and roads meant to the mass of the population or the degree of popularity a divided opposition could gain by opposing measures that seemed or actually did restrict people's right to own cars and drive where they wanted in them. Those who did sense or know this disqualified themselves by attitude and rhetoric from the consensus seeking tendency of New Labour and its determination to win a full second term - not yet achieved by Labour.
We haven't yet plumbed the depth of feeling out there about the right to drive and own a car.
I'm unqualified to understand those feelings since I've had cars in my family since the 19th century and am bored by them (not just disgusted by the social and architectural mayhem they've made). This is about mass aspiration supported by intensive marketing compounded by years of blighted alternatives.
Before you think I'm expressing elite contempt for mass desire I add that I would find it difficult to prise my wife from her car, my children from the desire for lifts to places in cars and most of my colleagues' and friends' and neighbours reliance on motoring as a preferred choice of travel. My travel choices are regarded politely as eccentric in most of the circles in which I move - which is why I get so much pleasure from communication with kindred spirits on the web, at the campaigning conferences I attend and in the magazines I read. I was going to say "the future belongs to us" and then I thought - er - no. My singing voice is lousy and I don't like the association one little bit (Good film tho'!). All the same we are weird bunch.
In road transport and especially as this relates to kerbing the spread of cars we are in the same political location as civil rights in the 1920s or suffragettes in the 1880s. The legislation is just beginning to come on line for all sorts of functional as well as visionary reasons but the politics of changing attitudes to cars has only just begun.
Carbusters and advocates of carfree cities are pacing themselves for a marathon (my father told me once that the old reformers he particularly admired were those who cared about, thought about and campaigned for a world they would not live to see. That view is at the core of the idea of sustainability - what we leave to future generations)
Applaud small achievement by government, but also continue to espouse the maxim "quiet victories, noisy defeats." There will be many more of the latter and this requires good heart, stamina, courage and companionship.
34 Beaudesert Road
Birmingham B15 2TT
0121 554 9794
----- Original Message -----
From: Anthony Rae
Sent: Sunday, January 28, 2001 1:11 PM
Subject: TRAFFIC_REDUCTION: Making transport an election issue
It was interesting, on On the Record just now, to see Lord Macdonald:
- getting a hammering from John Humphries about traffic and roads policy U-turns, and broken promises. (I hadn't noticed that, according to Humphries, traffic growth will be higher 2000-10 (18%) than in the previous decade 1990-2000 = 15% he said).
- equivocating on rail policy.
In the accompanying film we saw the local FOE group protesting about the tremendous environmental damage that will be caused by the newly approved Hastings bypass, made possible by additional government funding and priority for roads - and their basic U-turn.
Why is it that apparently everyone else (John Humphries, Jonathan Porritt, the broadsheets and tabloids, uncle Tom Cobbly and all) can notice the blindingly obvious - that government transport strategy has failed, and needs to be criticised or campaigned about very vocally - but FOE HQ cannot.
And here we are, just weeks away from a general election, when John Prescott's promise on traffic reduction - 'absolute reduction, and hold me to it' - is due to come home to roost. (Instead, our message will be: "Treble investment in buses and traffic calming by 2005, so that everyone has access to regular public transport and can live in a safe street" - something which the government could say, with some degree of truth, is going to happen anyway. So why campaign for it?)
It's a puzzle, isn't it?
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