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Transport.
They won't drive us out of our cars.

 
Present transport policy

They want to drive us out of our cars because they think cars are jamming and polluting our cities and killing our people. Private transport is seen as a bad thing and public transport is seen as a good thing. Well, I've used both and I can tell them for sure that my private car is better than public transport.

We have mad legislation like bus lanes, carbon related vehicle excise duty, excess road fuel tax and even robot technology designed specifically to fine and annoy drivers. It's all aimed at reducing the comfort of the motorist.

Road building programs are restricted because roads just "cause more cars" and they tell us that we're just a few years away from total gridlock.

But does any of this really make sense? Read on.

Do roads cause traffic?

The anti car lobby tells us that traffic is bad, and that building more roads will simply cause more traffic. To a limited extent this is true. Given a good road network, someone might choose to live in a different town on the basis that the road network will allow them to easily visit relatives and loved ones despite a considerable distance. Without the car, they might not have chosen to move so far away in the first place. This same effect will also apply to commuters deciding on where they want to live. And if you can visit a large distant shopping centre then you might choose to do so.

But to extend these basic ideas into the idea that roads always cause increases in traffic is complete nonsense. If the roads are adequate for the planned journeys then the limitation is the maximum length of time that people are prepared to spend travelling. Many people are already near this point anyway.

Congestion; what's the solution?

It would obviously be wonderful if we could all travel freely without ever encountering traffic congestion.

It's quite understandable that people desire clean fast and efficient public transport systems. There's every reason to improve transport services since people clearly need them and benefit from them. It doesn't make sense to attempt to cripple one method of transportation in order to encourage alternatives. We live in a society that provides resources as defined and required by market forces. This is a good system and allows for demand to be met by enterprise. If there's a demand for transport by car (which there clearly is) then it should be met.

Since the road network is quite sensibly nationally owned the government has got caught up in the supply and demand loop. In these circumstances the civil servants have created management jobs for themselves by looking at and changing the ways that road infrastructure is provided. It isn't wrong that they should be planning to provide roads to service the requirements of the community, but they have forgotten that roads provision should simply follow road demand.

Suppose at some point (present, past or future) a particular city is regularly affected by so-called gridlock. In our example city journeys take hours longer than expected. Where those journeys are less than essential people will seek alternatives (for example they will shop in another town). As they seek alternatives the congestion is lessened.  Since some of the customers have gone elsewhere some of the businesses will also go elsewhere and the gridlock is lessened further. Perhaps the effect is so dramatic that some people again decide to use the services in that particular city. In this way, congestion will always self regulate at a level that is acceptable to the people who live, work and shop in the city. The bureaucrats simply need to stay out of the loop. That's not to say that good planning can't create better balances than market forces alone. But present daft ideas are creating worse balances!

The bureaucrats must remember that daft ideas like taking away parking spaces don't simply reduce congestion. They also reduce the number of visitors.

We do not need to force people out of their cars because of congestion.

Road safety

Improving road safety is an excellent objective. We need intelligent policies based on driver skill and driver responsibility to gain improvement from our present position. As detailed throughout this web site.

On a specific note, individual road user responsibility requires equal treatment for all classes of road user. For example, schemes that favour buses over cars tend to unbalance the responsibilities and ultimately cause danger.

Why private road transport?

The private motor car offers a quality of service that most public transport system cannot hope to approach for many journeys. Note the compelling advantages that make many people choose to spend 25% of their entire income on private motor cars:

  • Instant on demand, 365 days per year 24 hours per day.
  • Carries heavy or bulky goods
  • Controlled personal environment
  • Comfortable
  • Door to door service
  • Fast
  • Excellent weather protection
  • Avoids contact with "the great unwashed" (=hygenic)
  • Allows private conversation
  • Protected from drunks, loonies, pickpockets and muggers
  • Pleasurable in its own right for many
I'm quite sure we could find further compelling advantages to add to the list, but it is already so compelling as it stands that we hardly need to bother.
Real Alternatives

We can reduce the number of journeys that people wish to undertake using new technology. Many people can and will choose to work at home and shop at home using computer and internet technologies. These are real cheap fast and effective alternatives to many journeys.

Public transport can be improved in many ways, with local problems being addressed by local solutions. And there's nothing wrong with providing good public transport.

But reducing the comfort of motorists when there are no realistic alternatives is complete madness.

Goods by road

We totally depend on the roads network to deliver goods to where they are required. There's nothing wrong with this system and it proves itself effective every single time you buy something from a supermarket. It's fast enough, cheap enough and reliable enough that we don't actually need to change it very much at all. As wealth grows and the demand for goods increases it would be good if the efficiency of road transport of goods gradually improved too. We certainly do not want to increase transportation costs.

Traffic pollution

There used to be serious concerns about pollution from private motor cars. While many people apparently still perceive a traffic pollution problem, the facts tell a different story. Pollution from private motor cars is already consigned to history in British cities.

Download this NHS report for some clear and real information. 

The petrol will run out.

Yes of course it will. Still we have many years to develop (so called) sustainable alternatives. Hydrogen, either for direct combustion or used in fuel cells is a clean alternative fuel and can be made in effectively unlimited quantities from sea water. If we were to go along this route would would simply (ha!) need to develop the energy sources required to extract hydrogen from the sea water. While the energy requirements would obviously be very considerable, there are many sustainable energy technologies in development.

Conclusion

Private motor cars are here to stay. No amount of government interference will change that. All the interference is doing is making congestion worse and wasting our money. Cars are safe enough for people to choose to use them.

They need to accept the informed choices that the public are making and facilitate them properly.

Comments

If you have any comments on the content of this page, we would like to hear from you. Send us email. We will create a comments page to display suitable emails if the demand for one exists. We will be happy to publish alternative views on the comments page.

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