more from the archives of The War On The Motorist

Stumbling through things from the end of the Major government and start of the Blair government, in the brief period between the end of the big road expansion era and the start of the too afraid of being accused of waging war on motorists to say or do anything era. Assuming these Road Traffic Reduction Acts were quietly abandoned at the same time as the New Deal for Transport?

This is just an excuse to post extracts from the always marvellous papers of Ian Roberts.

Reducing road traffic
Would improve quality of life as well as preventing injury
Ian Roberts
Director, Child Health Monitoring Unit, Institute of Child Health, London
BMJ. 1998 January 24; 316(7127): 242???243.

The Road Traffic Reduction (UK Targets) Bill has its second reading next week. If it is enacted the Secre??tary of State will be required to implement policies to reduce road traffic by 5% by 2005, and by 10% by 2010. The bill is supported by a host of health, welfare, and environmental groups, including the BMA, Barnardos, the Child Accident Prevention Trust, the Children's Play Council, the Faculty of Public Health Medicine, Friends of the Earth, and the Royal College of Paediat??rics and Child Health. Their concern is not only to reduce death and injury but also to counter the other adverse effects of motorisation.

The equation of transport policy with road traffic policy has left children, elderly people, and those with?? out a car socially excluded in our ???top gear??? towns. Children are prevented from playing in the street and travelling independently; adults without cars are excluded from out of town supermarkets and inconvenienced by edge of town hospitals poorly served by public transport.4 Yet both are included in injury statistics and suffer more than their share of noise and pollution. For many children being struck by a car is their first experience of car travel, and the risk of injury for children in families without a car is twice that of children in car owning families. This, and the familiar scenario of the elderly pedestrian waiting anxiously at the kerb, surely deserves the attention of any Downing Street social exclusion unit.

Preventing disease and injury may not be the most persuasive reason to reduce car use: improving quality of life should be the stimulus for change. Urban living
would be more enjoyable without the drone of traffic, the smell of exhaust, and the danger. Bumping into someone in the street could be a welcome opportunity for interaction, not the precipitant of road rage. Less traffic might regenerate the supportive social networks of community interaction and revitalise our inner cities. And congestion is bad for business. The Confed??eration of British Industry estimates that road conges??tion costs Britain ??20 billion a year.
As a private member's bill the Road Traffic Reduc??tion Bill will need government support to succeed. The Department of the Environment, Transport, and the Regions has already made clear its intention to get people out of their cars, and the bill provides it with an opportunity to match its concern with commitment. Nevertheless, the bill does have political enemies in the shape of a well organised road lobby, representing those who sell cars, roads, and petrol, and even with government support may face parliamentary obstruc??tionism. Those MPs who are tempted to filibuster should think instead about the quality of life of their own and their constituents' children.

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