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  • Posted March 19th, 2017
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    Will we reach ‘peak car’, after which we can begin to reduce the number of cars on the roads?

    Will we reach ‘peak car’, after which we can begin to reduce the number of cars on the roads?

    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.

    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 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 it we marvel at the chaos (and usual inequalities) that change of this order is likely to bring?


    The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's


    2 Comments

    • 1Dave Darby March 19th, 2017

      Hi Dan

      We’ve just come back from holiday – in Suffolk, which took 4 hours each way – on south circular, north circular, blackwall tunnel, A12, M11 etc. Lots of traffic jams. It was a dystopian, hellish vision. Ugly, polluting, dual carriageways scarring the country, destroying nature and communities. All promoted by a road, car and oil lobby. Car adverts make me laugh, because they always depict open roads and beautiful scenery, which is a long way from most people’s motoring experience. We don’t fly, but we don’t think we’re going to drive on holiday any more either. Train it is.

      As far as I can see, the only way to try to reverse the growth in car use is to strengthen communities, and deepen them to allow most people to be able to walk to work, to socialise and to shop. So that needs to be a world of the small, rather than the large-scale. Small businesses set in solid, local communities.

      The big question is though: do you think this will ever be possible within a capitalist economy? I can’t see any way that it can, with every government pushing an agenda of growth and exports. But is it possible yet to talk about how we get rid of capitalism in polite society and be taken seriously? And if not, when will it be – when it’s too late?

    • 2Simon March 19th, 2017

      They must be doing the car ads in Spain, plenty of quiet roads and lush scenery.. your description of the roads in the UK is spot on, endured some horrible traffic so we left..

    • 3Andrew Rollinson March 21st, 2017

      I can’t see this happening in my lifetime:
      Global car industry making money from selling new cars built to perform rather than run economically.
      Global petroleum industry making money (from fuel and shops that sell the fuel).
      Global insurance industry (the new banking sector) making money from mandatory requirement for insurance that many people don’t claim on for fear of losing no claims bonus, along with premiums the rise each year.
      All the above lobbying politicians along with out-of-town multinational superstores and advertisers.
      All the above sales mean tax revenue for governments, along with road tax, licencing, even traffic law penalties.

      I don’t drive because it is so awful, and I don’t like lining the pockets of/being a slave to the above. But this system depends on public stupidity.
      When oil runs out, electric cars will replace them, using electric from corporate large-scale shale gas, coal or nuclear power stations.

      Buses should be free to all, and people should choose to cycle and get their provisions locally.

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