Re: motorway tolls - musing on the specific in the general
- I wasn't for one moment using understanding of their actions to forgive
them - tout comprendre tout se pardonner (excuse my French etc) - just
passing an opinion on why the government seems fearful of so many of the
steps suggested by those from whom they sought well paid advise - such as
Phil Goodwin and David Begg and many other academics who gave well
researched reasons why policy must shift and what would happen if it didn't.
What can be thought through in policy is not the same as what is politically
practical. All of us have limited understanding of the electorate and the
way the different stake holders stack up in terms of power and influence. I
who share with many cyber-friends on "carfree cities" and "urban-cyclist"
views that make lots of sense am still in our road in Birmingham that funny
chap on the bike. My daughter begs me not to meet her from school. I am
treated with amused tolerance in many of the places I lecture on issues of
local government policy - in buildings with well filled car-parks to
delegates who have invariably (almost invariably) arrived by car. I'm hoping
I'm ahead of my time and try hard not to pretend to be anything other than a
harmless eccentric to avoid becoming a bore.
Thus, I defer to the government's sense that they must play the long game on
transport. In that respect they are still way ahead of the current
opposition but still way behind main-line academic thought.
When you feel morose ponder this. Is there any one of any intellectual
stature arguing for more roads, faster driving speeds, fewer pedestrian and
cycling faculties? The same can be said pf that toxic thing we call racial
prejudice. With the demise of Enoch Powell it continues and in some places
where mixed with poverty is all too alive and well but no-one of political
or intellectual weight backs the language or stance of discrimination to
which Powell gave such a disquieting level of respectability in high places.
It's a cruel thing to say about any other human being but the politicians
who have recently spoken out in the old language of race-hate are the
dreadful vulgar little shrimps. My father - actually my stepfather - who was
from Yorkshire spoke of the way to deal with such people - "ignur them".
I know this is a path I often retread - but I do say that getting away of
car dependency will take as long and require as great political will and
inventiveness as the movement for women's suffrage and the abolition of
slavery - in both cases political campaigns that lasted over a century and
whose initiators never saw their dreams turned into legislation and part of
the "common-sense" of civilisation. For me - I regard it as a privilege and
at times a joy to be able to play a small part in the most enjoyable and
companionable of political movements.
Yesterday afternoon I went down to see my friend Lindsey Hutchinson - an
electrician who also runs a proper bookshop on the edge of Handsworth/Winson
Green (Bookbane - try it if you're ever in the area) - and who campaigns
tirelessly in his community, runs a bike club and a resident's association
which includes many local shop keepers. It has a feisty illustrated
newsletter that has me in stitches so good is it at ridiculing and exposing
the self-serving figures that collude with those forces that blight the
lives of local people and disfigure our urban fabric.
He pointed out the window as I sat down to enjoy some of his good coffee and
talk politics with him and choose some books and he pointed back out of the
window at something which, in my hurry to get indoors, I hadn't noticed.
Outside was a long fought for zebra crossing. This was something he and
others had advocated for over 10 years to create some safety for those
crossing an increasingly stinking rat-runners freeway that ought really ot a
I gave him such a strong hand-shake he was embarrassed - 'cos he hates that
touchy stuff. Then we discussed traffic in Cairo, Third World Debt and urban
land profiteers ...
From: Simon Norton <S.Norton@...>
Sent: Sunday, April 29, 2001 6:05 PM
Subject: motorway tolls
> Well, let's say the argument you are attributing to the Government. Ifno-car
> lanes can do the job then I see no argument for replacing fuel taxationwith
> tolling (the policy suggested by David Begg) -- at least if one ignoresthe need
> to guard against a move to alternative untaxed fuels. This does not, ofcourse,
> affect the argument for higher motoring costs. Let's hope the Governmentdoesn't
> abandon the no-car lane option too...
> Simon Norton