One the one hand…then on the other…

On the one hand, people are being told to drastically cut their car use in a bid to achieve net zero carbon targets: Car use across Bristol region needs to halve to meet net zero climate targets 22.3.23. A target that we argued was nigh on impossible to achieve in a society that up until now, has been organised on the assumption of near universal car ownership: An impossible target? 23.3.23. This is what we had to say in that piece:

Then there’s the decades of planning policy which has assumed near universal car ownership. As a consequence, suburbs where car ownership is pretty much a necessity have been allowed to sprawl. Employment locations that can pretty much only be accessed by car have sprung up on the periphery of Bristol. A massive shopping centre with associated leisure venues, Cribbs Causeway, has been built right out by the M5. There are bus services running to Cribbs Causeway but the majority of people visiting drive because the buses aren’t reliable.”

On the other hand, the bus services that people are supposed to use as an alternative to driving their cars have been cut to the point where entire estates are left without buses as covered here: Bristol bus cuts: Residents feel ‘stuck’ on estate after last service is cut 21.4.23 and here: ‘Instead of 20 people on the bus, we’ll have 10 taxis’: how cuts to Bristol’s buses are hitting BS3 25.4.23.

Residents on the estates cut off from any kind of bus service who don’t drive are faced with having to hire taxis to get around – if they can afford them that is. If they can’t afford them, basically, they’re stranded. Some feel they have no option but to move. For elderly people, this is an absolute nightmare, particularly if they’ve lived in a neighbourhood for decades. For those who were using the bus but have access to a car, they opt to drive. So, it’s a combination of disrupted lives and more vehicles on the road as people are forced to use taxis or revert to driving their own cars.

Then there’s supposedly green companies creating mega allotment sites where plot holders pretty much have no option but to drive. We’re talking about Roots and their controversial proposals for a 700 plot site at Abbots Leigh which is just over the border from Bristol in North Somerset. A proposal which we and many others have criticised on a number of grounds, one being that it will generate extra traffic: The saga of the Abbots Leigh allotments continues… 24.4.23.

All this is happening when car use is supposed to be cut in half to meet net zero carbon targets. You couldn’t make it up, could you? Talk about conflicting signals, this is off the scale! People aren’t mugs. When they see the disparity between what they’re asked to do with reducing car use and the bus cuts that make it pretty much impossible to do so, they can be forgiven for asking some pretty searching questions as to what agenda is actually in play. Asking those questions is something we’ve done: A war on movement? 22.4.23. It doesn’t help when insult is added to injury when the likes of Roots create so called ‘sustainable’ allotment sites that act as traffic generators.

People don’t like hypocrisy. They don’t like bullshit either. They really don’t like being put into a situation where whatever they do, they’re made to feel they can’t win. They absolutely hate being denigrated for the decisions they feel they have no choice but to make because there are no viable alternatives. So, when people kick off against what they feel is the imposition of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs), Clean Air Zones (CAZs) and so called 15 minute cities, like it or not, there are reasons for their anger.

When there are protests against LTNs, CAZs and 15 minute cities, rather than smear everyone taking part as ‘petrol heads’, ‘right wingers’ and even ‘fascists’, can we respectfully suggest that it may be worth engaging with their concerns? Engagement and mature discussion has to be better than falling for the divide and rule tactics that pit us against each other. We’re not saying that you have to agree with those who are protesting, just try to understand where they’re coming from and why they’re angry at the constantly conflicting signals they have to deal with.

Yet again, we feel we need to state that the two of us behind this project don’t drive. We get around by train, bus when absolutely necessary and walking. Our experiences of this prompted us to write this post: A war on non drivers… 26.2.23. It feel like every other time we travel from Keynsham to either Bristol or Bath, there’s some kind of drama with the trains that leads to delays and cancellations. To be brutally honest, when it comes to local train services, the offering from GWR isn’t fit fr purpose.

Along with those living in the peripheral estates, far flung suburbs and rural villages who feel they have no valid alternative to using a car to get around, we’re also being shafted, albeit in a different way. We don’t feel the need to fall for the culture war trap of slagging off motorists just because we’re non drivers. We refuse to fall for divide and rule tactics. In what feels like a war on movement, there’s more uniting us than dividing us. Which is probably why various nefarious actors are doing what they can to ensure we’re at each others throats.

To conclude, yes, we’re more than aware that we cannot carry on as we are with the expectation of hyper-mobility. We’ve dealt with that in some depth in the latter part of this piece: The future of movement on a finite planet 20.2.23. This is what we had to say in that piece:

Living on a finite planet, we do need to have some very deep discussions as to how we adapt to that reality while ensuring we all lead worthwhile and fulfilling lives. The ‘great reset’ or 4IR (Fourth Industrial Revolution), call it whatever you want, is not the way to a sustainable future that offers all of us a decent life. The fact that we have to argue against what the 4IR is doing to us, ostensibly in the name of ‘saving the planet’ while at the same time, fight for a sane, sustainable, fulfilling future that will guarantee our future and that of the planet is immensely frustrating. A system ‘reset’ is needed but it’s one that has to be on our terms.”

One comment

  1. The culture war against cars is being fought by people who for reasons of social status and geographical location have no understanding of how other people, mainly working / lower middle class, have become dependent on having a car, e.g. parents who may have to multi-task during a normal working day. Recent converts to the anti-car side however are some members of the professional middle class, who used to be office-based, but for the past three years plus have been based at home. This is the demographic that the Green Party is targeting at the forthcoming local elections.

    Another issue that commonly gets overlooked is how rising property prices since roughly the turn of the millennium have led to commuting distances increasing. So although the *relative* disparities between expensive (e.g Bath) and less expensive places may have remained roughly constant, in absolute terms they will have increased and commuting by car is less expensive than the difference in mortgage or rental payments would be.


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