The 'new normal' in transport
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What will the 'new normal' look like? Do we know, can we decide?
This challenge we’re faced with isn’t whether cities will survive as we know them. The question is whether we will have the imagination and vision to transform streets and bring about the safer, more accessible, and more resilient cities we’ve needed all along.
Janette Sadik-Khan, former New York Commissioner for Transportation
A new normal in transport policy in the UK is one much less focused on cars and road building. We are not ignoring cars – cars are important to some people – but as a population we need to implement constant adaptation to a life with far less car dominance. We need to bring life back to the high streets: high streets in small rural communities, in towns and in urban areas across the country. Cars are also likely to simply be much less important; with the Prime Minister claiming there will be ‘many, many job losses’, there will be less people travelling to work.
The new normal is a transport policy that goes beyond the regular policy cycle. That doesn’t hang around waiting for drip-feed funding from an annual budget to spend vast sums on shaving 10 minutes off a commute by car, but instead gets active with repurposing carriageways to get ecargo bikes to deliver to offices; that future-proofs transport interchanges where electric cars can be left to charge whilst passengers jump on a hire bike for a 15 minute easy ride to the office; that delivers serious zero emission zones which make a genuine difference to air quality; that puts proper cycle lanes from residential areas to secondary schools; that connects and connects and connects.
A new normal is whatever we want it to be; there’s no template. There are easy wins to improve the environment, to use social distancing to revive and unite communities by bringing streets back to life, there are longer term goals which demand a rethink into making active travel, public transport and health and wellbeing the new normal. This does not need more money, it demands that money for roads is pushed into the far better value-for-money infrastructure for cycling, for walking and for high streets that become pleasant, unpolluted places people choose to spend time in.
The new normal is the better health and wellbeing generated by NOT taking a car to make a 2 mile journey. It is taking seriously the increased mental health issues caused by COVID19 and recognising that car travel increases anxiety – about pollution, about congestion, about the environment, about cost – and the avoidable death rate, and that active travel has precisely the reverse impact.
The new normal is all about making the choice to make the changes we have wanted to see for a long time and at the centre of it all is the bicycle.
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