Tuesday, November 15, 2011

cars–or rather motor vehicles :-(

Monday, 14th November: I had to go up to Huntingdon today a journey which I had to do by car. I combined several different things, including a visit to an Ironmongers, taking a load of rubbish (for recycling) to Milton Recycling Centre and a visit to the Supermarket.

I went up the A14, a somewhat “notorious” road although I went up mid-morning and it was fine. Now that Britain’s economy is looking even more dire part of the tonic might be an A14 Toll Road.  Whilst I understand that sometimes spending money can help an Economy – something associated with Keynesian Economics and known as the multiplier effect, I am not convinced that more of the same is always the right approach.

Let’s face it commuting is a waste of time, also lots of people driving to work as the single occupants of cars is less efficient that sharing transport yet more roads just encourages more vehicles. We need to think differently and I don’t just mean toll roads. The trouble with toll roads is that they are socially divisive, why should being rich mean you get exclusive roads? Mind you a lot of motor vehicle drivers do take the view that lowly cyclists should just get out of their way.

I rather liked this idea – PleaseCycle: ‘air miles’ for cyclists – although they are not really air miles – Bike miles that employers award to their cyclist employees for cycle-commuting.

The trouble is that we have gotten used to the “freedom” of motoring and overlook the problems. A recent item on the BBC News website indicated that UK air pollution ‘puts lives at risk’. “The cost to the nation is between £8.5-20Bn per year because of poor health and we cut life expectancy by years”. Who are those most at risk – well the poorest people in our cities who live near the busiest roads and breathe in diesel fumes, dangerous chemicals and bits of tyre every day. The report quotes ClientEarth’s estimates of around 4,000 people in London and 30,000 in the UK dying in 2008 from air pollution.

This doesn’t take into account the huge volume of noise that busy roads generate, noise we all don’t mind as long as it isn’t in my back yard and then it can be intolerable. the trouble is that we tend to dismiss concerns about traffic noise as NIMBY-ism until it happens to us. Every time we want more traffic then someone pays the price and that price is not to pay for noise-reduction measures for the road in question. There is a lot of interest in the subject though – Speed and Road Traffic Noise (pdf), Road Noise and Development of an ultra low-noise surface being but three links.

When will we start thinking differently about the way we live in the UK and how we want to live. Too often old farts like me go on abut the old days when I was three and used to cycle to the shop on my tri-cycle on my own – but nowadays the roads are too dangerous. (or something like that)  Yet if we carry on, then we will have more roads, more congestion, more pollution, more noise and less green space. Exercise does make us happy.

An interesting take on the issue of road tax is discussed on the website of I pay Road Tax. Better tobacconists for smokers!  Actually the issue is really one of fully understanding the costs of different modes of transport -  motor vehicles probably ought to pay more.

Talking about roads and safety a Second cyclist has been killed at the Bow Roundabout junction in London in three weeks. Speeding traffic through London appears to be more important the peoples’ lives. Why? There are some people who care though. Fortunately because some don’t. Is it me, or are there more examples of people not taking responsibility for their actions – “Barmaid jailed after concocting cover story with boyfriend after he killed a cyclist in her car”.

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that on my way to Ely the traffic seemed to do a lot of tail-gating, yesterday the A142 Ely Road was shut because of an overturned van. When I drove up and down the A14 very few cars were obeying the 2 second rule. It is easy to blame the roads or the weather or fireworks yet frankly (IMHO) our driving is the problem.  Yet it would seem that the signals to motorists (and to ourselves) don’t recognise the issues despite there being a rise in deaths on the roads.

I passed an Audi A8 which was so close to the lorry in front it could have been towed – the driver (she) was on the phone.  This raised two thoughts, how do we raise driving standards and how can our cars become more intelligent.  Personally I am a fan of driving schools for transgressors – although to be honest I don’t know if they work or not. A fine is too easy a response to poor driving. Having re-training as part of the “punishment” would at least mean that poor drivers self-select for training.

A lot of car electronics seems to be expended on better sound systems and navigation and personal safety. Perhaps motor vehicles ought also to be equipped with better ways of monitoring the drivers – lorry drivers have to put up with it – why shouldn’t we all? Driving too close to the vehicle in front would get my vote as the worst general form of driving behaviour. (Blocking cycle lanes comes a close second.)

Mind you I am disappointed to note that the disabled ramp at the Cambridge Railway Station seems to have once again ben blocked by cyclists.  I have two suggestions – 1: Get the perpetrators to undertake a disability sensitivity course (that they pay for), 2: Get the station to put in more bl**dy cycle stands. – simples.

Let’s end on a pictorial note(s) – how about camping near a volcano, time-lapse photography of the Earth and poinsettias are big for Christmas.

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