While we cower under a cloud of Coronavirus, still locked down, deaths running at 30,000+ and our beloved media pedalling COVID porn everyday, there is a chance, a real chance we can turn the pandemic into one of the greatest culture shifts and legacies the UK has ever seen.
30,000 dead people. Its a sobering figure. We’re now going head to head with Italy for the highest death toll Europe. Thats a small stadium full of people but lets break that figure down a bit and spin it a bit differently. Lower air pollution has contributed to an estimated 11,000 less deaths. Wow, thats a headline grabber too but we never see it. So when Coronavirus and the pandemic passes, as we know it will at some point, are we happy to go back and accept those 11,000 deaths a year again? or do we do something radical now we’ve had a taste (literally) of what low air pollution, low traffic, low noise looks like?
Air pollution contributes to 60,000 deaths a year. Why aren’t the mainstream media pedalling that porn instead?
We have been addicted to cars since the 1960’s. Decades of pandering to the driver, subsidising them and trying to build our way out of congestion has lead to the opposite. Vehicle saturation that is congestion, noise and poor air quality. 68% of trips by car in the UK are under 5 miles and about 25% irrationally are under a mile. We have been conditioned that we have to have a car or more than one car. That there is no alternative Why do households need 3 and 4 cars? Forcing people to stay at home under lockdown has proved people want to walk and cycle. Just look how many there are out there. The reason they didn’t before and they won’t after, if we go back to how we were, is simply road safety. Its just too dangerous for them to mix with vehicles on the road. Who would? Painted cycle lanes are not safe, we need a joined-up network of safe, segregated cycling infrastructure to ensure the boom in cycling continues.
The health of our nation has never been more under the spotlight. We are spoon fed about the benefits of diet and exercise. An active nation is a healthy nation and money spent now safeguarding the health of our nation, will safeguard our NHS too. Healthy people are less of a burden. Protect Lives. Save the NHS we’re told so why not persist with the same message and just change how we do it. Active travel!
There has never been a better time to walk and cycle with the family and with social distancing measures set to be around for a while, public transport isn’t an obvious choice for now. Drivers have been subsidised for decades, lets have some of that road space back please. If you consider a road as simply a way to facilitate travel, well consider cycle lanes move 5x the amount of people in a third of the space. It is literally a no-brainer. Sadiq Khan wants to increase cycling ten-fold in London and the Government have pledged £2.5bn for temporary schemes to aid cycling and socially-distanced walking. It could be a blue-print for the rest of the country. We are decades behind Europe on this. Its a proven model. Its time we caught up.
This is the test, this the moment, lets make it positive.