As a baby-boomer I have lived through a 50 year period where life has become dominated by and dependent on the use of the private car. I wonder whether other people are sharing my expectation that there will be a very much shorter period, equivalent to a revolution, where the car moves into the background?
It is not the estimate of the 40,000 premature deaths which is likely to shift the car lobby, but the growing evidence that vehicle exhausts are poisoning our children/grandchildren’s brains and lungs. We could never be certain that keeping our children away from congested city centres and even village streets would be sufficient. Nor would following the recent recommendation to fit hoods over buggies be a long term solution given the number of schools located close to main roads. This is in the context where, in law, a special duty of care is owed to children. This would apply to damaging their health but could also apply to the longer term consequences of climate change on their future lives.
With a combination of an increase in city living and the costs of car ownership the concept of ‘peak car’ (where a limit has been reached to car ownership and use) has some plausibility. However, that still leaves about 30 million pollution machines in our streets. Progress is being made in the introduction of electric cars but few will be able to afford the £30,000 plus for and EV or hybrid, which still includes an internal combustion engine. Apparently, we also need to be concerned about dust from tyres, brakes and roads. There does not appear to be any way of cleaning up our air without a transformation in the mobility.
The fundamental question seems to be whether we might have a good or even better quality of life if personal transport was limited to walking and cycling, electric taxis and electric car clubs with buses, vans and trucks running on electricity and LPG? The real revolution would come through traveling less and more locally. The next question should be whether there should be some planning for this kind of future or should we sit back and marvel at the chaos (and usual inequalities) that change of this order is likely to bring?