Low-impact transport: introduction

“Mobility will eventually collapse in cities that give priority to the car.” – Jens Martin Skibsted

What is low-impact transport?

Very simply, low-impact transport is a transport system that uses less fossil fuel, which would involve a combination of:

  • most importantly – moving from private to public transport
  • reducing the overall amount of travel
  • fuel efficiency, and
  • alternative fuels (including muscle power)
this is low-impact transport

This is low-impact transport…

Here’s a mini-manifesto: ‘A New Way of Travelling’ – to make travelling by public transport a pleasure, rather than a hassle:

  1. subsidised train and bus fares (and a comprehensible, integrated ticketing system!)
  2. indoor combined rail / bus station in the centre of every town, with a bar/restaurant, shop and hotel attached, so that travellers can completely relax. Have settees in the bar/restaurant, with free papers and wi-fi – and you don’t have to buy anything to use them. Have screens with travel information everywhere – with bike racks, security lockers, children’s play areas and very nice toilet, shower and baby-changing facilities – all free. Let’s even have a cinema, gym, swimming pool, sauna and massage in the transport hub for good luck
  3. bus routes that snake out from these hubs both directly and around the villages in all directions to the next town hub – and so on, to cover the whole country
  4. no bus franchises unless companies provide a 24-hour service – including minibuses every hour all night. People need to travel at night too
  5. all bus stops to have shelters and seats; and doors to keep out the wind and rain; and screens to show where the bus is
  6. bikes to be allowed on all buses and trains
  7. cycle lanes – everywhere
  8. tax incentives for car-sharing
  9. tax incentives for working at home
  10. pedestrianised town centres, so that you can walk from the station hub to markets, shops, restaurants, cinemas, theatres and all facilities in the centre of town without crossing a road
and this isn't

…and this isn’t.

All this would have to be paid for, so:

  1. no tax breaks for company cars
  2. congestion charges in all cities
  3. increase speeding fines and parking fees
  4. increase fuel and car duty, and road tax on gas-guzzlers (there could be exceptions for tradespeople and delivery vehicles)
  5. tax aviation fuel and flights (there’s no duty on aviation fuel, or VAT on flying). It’s criminal that it’s cheaper to fly domestically than take the train – and that’s because the lack of tax on flying means that taxpayers subsidise the aviation industry to the tune of £10 billion per year
  6. hell, just tax the rich properly, and close tax-avoidance loopholes

See below for more ideas on reducing the amount of travel, fuel-efficiency and alternative fuels.

What are the benefits of low-impact transport?

  • what a pleasure it would be to travel by public transport; a lot of people only have a car because public transport doesn’t meet their needs. Let’s make sure it does
  • if you could do without your car, you’d also be doing without repayments or initial cost, MOT, service & repairs, fuel, oil, breakdown service, spares, insurance, parking fees, road tax, fines, tolls and congestion charges – you’d be a lot better off
  • on public transport you can read and work; so you’d be better-informed and would have to spend less time in the office
  • cycling and walking more will make you fitter and healthier
  • reduced congestion
  • better air quality (environmental and health benefits)
  • reduced CO2 emissions
  • wouldn’t have to keep building new roads, which destroy habitat and make the countryside uglier
  • reduce roadkill – cars are one of the three Cs – the biggest killers of wildlife in the UK (the other 2 being cats and chemicals)
  • safer – over 3000 people per year die in road traffic accidents in the UK, and over 30,000 in the US
  • nicer, quieter neighbourhoods where kids can play safely
walking - the greenest mode of transport of all: the more you do, the fitter you'll get, with no environmental side-effects

Walking – the greenest mode of transport of all: the more you do, the fitter you’ll get, with no environmental side-effects.

What can I do?

If we want a transport system like this, then we have to make some sacrifices – and the private car has to take the brunt (but not before we’ve started to build something like the above system – that would be unfair). But ultimately, if we want to move away from an extremely expensive system that causes regular gridlock and damages the environment and our health, then it should be cheaper and easier for four people (let alone one) to travel by public transport rather than car. And we’re a long way from that. So we have to accept that car use should be a bit more expensive / inconvenient to allow public transport, walking and cycling to become cheaper / more convenient. We’re never going to get a transport system like the one above unless we campaign for it, but first we need to start doing things – like:

  • using public transport more
  • walking and cycling
  • travelling less – working from home, moving closer to work (or getting a job nearer to home) to reduce your commuting distance
  • looking into teleconferencing / video meetings – they’re getting easier and more popular
  • walking to local shops instead of driving to supermarkets, or get home deliveries (e.g. veg boxes)
  • reducing air miles, or better still, not flying at all
  • using car-sharing for one-off or regular journeys
  • hitchhiking
  • hiring a car or use a taxi when you need to
  • walking / cycling to school
  • using different fuels – biodiesel, electric / hybrid vehicles, wood-gas etc.
  • driving a fuel-efficient car if you need to drive – smaller cars not gas-guzzlers
  • see links page for tons more info
flying - the least green option: and so naturally it's tax-free

Flying – the least green option: and so naturally it’s tax-free.

After you’ve sorted out your own transport, you can help to campaign for more sustainable transport generally – see the Campaign for Better Transport for local groups (plus campaigns to reduce fares and stop bus and train route closures and introduce trams). For example, there are not many buses in the evenings in rural areas, if any at all – which means people in those areas need a car, and once you’ve bought it, MOTed it, and got your road tax and insurance, it doesn’t make sense not to drive it. We need policies that allow people to get around without having a car. And that means buses in the evenings and at weekends – everywhere.

Whilst you’re here, why not take a look at the other 10+ transport topics available? And don’t forget to visit our main topics page to explore over 200 aspects of low-impact living and our homepage to learn more about why we do what we do.


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