My reflections on this post are that you have covered the most crucial and progressive elements of why it’s important to promote sustainable transport (movement), and you have used the world’s primary examples to highlight best practice. The examples in this post, and Rebecca Taylor’s post, draw upon experience in cities where there is a thriving sustainable transport culture, in particular cycling, which is dear to my heart. I’d like to expand on your writing to concentrate on what the experience has been like for promoting cycling here in the UK, and to highlight the importance of political will and action.
The general experience in UK towns and cities, apart from those like Cambridge, Oxford and Hull, have been that ‘cycling culture’ had almost completely disappeared as a mode of everyday transport due to the heavy promotion of the automobile and expansive road building programs throughout the 1960’s/70’s/80’s/90’s (Reid,2012). Even now, under the current government, one or the largest road building programs of recent times worth over £15 billion has just be sanctioned under the current budget. The national and local government policy to promote sustainable travel has been slow, disjointed, and ultimately, undermined by much larger road building programs that maintain the status quo of the UK having a car centric transport strategy (Sloman, 2006).
The examples illustrated in Bo Li and Rebecca Taylor’s posts (Copenhagen and Amsterdam respectively) highlight the importance and impact that strong government policy and action can have on transforming everyday travel behaviour. In both Copenhagen and Amsterdam, they have had a clear policy to increase the modal share of cycling, and invested heavily and consistently over many decades. This mainly happened in the 1970’s.
The video below shows how the Netherlands went from car centric policies to a cycling revolution:
One could argue that the majority of the UK is 40 years behind this policy and investment. The UK’s dependence upon the car over such a long period of time means reversing decades of car-centric transport policy and subsequent ingrained everyday travel behaviour is much harder. Thankfully we have the examples of the Dutch and Danish success stories. For example, the political will and investment in policies to increase cycling show that the building of cycling specific infrastructure to segregate cyclists from car traffic, pedestrianising city and town centres, and highlighting the importance of ‘home zones’ for children to play, have led to much healthier, lively, safer and more sustainable cities (Gehl, 2010), as shown by the levels of cycling in many cities.
For the UK, it remains uncertain how our overall transport policies will shape the next 5-10 years. Despite the increased investment in infrastructure that maintains and promotes our dependence upon the car, many cities are receiving substantial funds to promote sustainable travel, and are now seeing plans to promote it come to fruition. The rate of change is much slower compared to those of Dutch and Danish cities, however the UK culture of car dependence is that much more ingrained.
The video below shows Newcastle City Council’s proposal to transform a section of the city centre for cycling:
Gehl, J (2010) Cities for People, Island Press
Newcastle City Council (2015) City Centre North Transport Improvements (Online: http://www.newcastle.gov.uk/parking-roads-and-transport/re-newcastle-transport-improvements/city-centre-north-improvements)
Reid, C (2012) Roads Were Not Built for Cars (Online: http://www.roadswerenotbuiltforcars.com/netherlands/)
Sloman, L (2006) Car Sick: Solutions for Our Car-addicted Culture, Green Books