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Martin Parkinson

Letters to the editor - on behalf of Transport 2000 *


Oh no! What shall we doooo ...

Planning 19th August 2005

Your editorial on climate change was very welcome (Planning 12th August). We now seem to have reached a stage in public debate where everyone is standing around wringing their hands saying 'we really must do something - but what can we do?'

An important step would be to grasp the nettle of traffic growth. In the UK, transport accounts for about 25 per cent of our greenhouse gas emissions, yet we continue to build new roads and expand airport capacity while equivocating on public transport. It is a myth that transport growth is inseparable from economic growth (the Governments own Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Roads has stated this plainly) yet high volume roads and nearby airports have a very real and negative impact on quality of life. When the contribution to climate change is taken into account there really is no excuse.

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Shared Space

New scientist 20th August 2005

Your interview with Claes Tingvall (30 July, p44)was very interesting but his approach to road safety is ultimately conventional: he puts his faith in more technology and accepts the dogma that motor vehicles have become an essential human prosthesis.

Tingvall thinks we should "design our towns and cities in ways that don't maximise contact between human and car". This fine aspiration could easily be misinterpreted by planners as a good reason for making every city look like Los Angeles in the name of safety. Separating drivers from walkers and cyclists is, in practice, usually accompanied by giving priority to the motor traffic: it is assumed that if you have important business then you will be driving.

There is an apparently paradoxical relationship between perception of risk and safety (see for example the work of Professor John Adams at UCL):when we feel unsafe we behave more cautiously and so become safe. For this reason some urban planners have started experimenting with deliberately mixing types of traffic: in the right circumstances this can reduce accidents and give cities back to humans who don't have vehicular armour.

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Beat the oil price rise!

The Independent 11th August 2005

You report that "British motorists are spending an extra 7.5m a day on fuel" (The Oil Crisis, 9 August 2005). The recently published National travel survey for 2004 found that around a quarter of all car journeys are under 2 miles so an easy personal way to ease the pain is to drive a bit less. An increase in oil prices might enforce a bit of reality in transport planning which until now has assumed an infinite supply of cheap fuel.

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Retail vitality

Liverpool Daily Post 14th July 2005

Larry Neild's article (Anti-car attitude would be 'suicidal' for city centre, 12 July 2005) doesn't tell the whole story. He quotes Peter Stoney, a Liverpool University economist, who objects to a proposal to 'cap' the number of parking spaces in Liverpool city centre because he believes this will deter shoppers. This may seem like common sense to an economist but many other social scientists would disagree. According to John Whitelegg, a visiting Professor of Transport at Liverpool John Moores: "There is no evidence at all that providing more parking spaces in a town centre will improve retail viability or attract more shoppers".

When studies are actually made of the relation between traffic levels and shopping behaviour, (as opposed to merely asking retailers or economists what they expect), there turns out to be little or no relation between 'retail vitality' and amount of parking space. In one case (Leicester, in 1992) an increase in traffic correlated with a decrease in occupied shopping units. Surely it is common sense that the pleasantness of a town centre acts as an encouragement to shoppers, and that too many cars can act as a deterrent?

Yours etc

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copyright 2002-2005 Martin Parkinson, all rights reserved; moral rights asserted.