‘The Future of Urban Transport’ paper

This article was published in 2009, in Newsletter 87.

‘The Cabinet Office Strategy Unit, DfT and a number of other Government Departments have worked together in recent months to consider how transport can best support the success of our urban areas.’

‘The promotion of walking and cycling (either for whole journeys or part of a trip involving public transport) can potentially help reduce the costs of physical inactivity to the NHS and contribute to government’s wider goals on health.’

This paper was published on November 3rd, the same day as Mayer Hillman told us, at our AGM (see report earlier in this Newsletter), that he was frustrated at the lack of co-ordination between government departments. So, in a few words and figures, what does it say?

Excess delays cost nearly £11 billion (yes that is NINE zeros)

Poor air quality up to £10.6 billion

Physical inactivity nearly £10 billion

Greenhouse gas emissions up to £3.7 billion

Noise and amenity up to £5 billion

And this is only England, so that is up to one thousand pounds each person for every year. Makes bailing out banks look cheap?

Another figure is that the marginal extra cost of each extra kilometre of motor travel in congested urban areas is £2. Some time ago I saw (and then lost) a research paper using Cambridge as a model that suggested similar figures. This means an extra cross Cambridge trip by motor vehicle in the peak hours costs society (yes, that’s all of us) ten pounds.

We’ve also heard that policies to increase walking and cycling will be contained in a new ‘active travel’ strategy to be published by the DfT in December. Perhaps it will suggest ‘road un-pricing’ for cyclists and pedestrians? All we devoted walkers and cyclists could carry GPS units, and then the Government could pay us, say 50p per mile, for each trip we make on foot or by bike in the urban area at congested times?

Of course I effectively said all this ten years ago in An Economic Case for Better Cycleways (Newsletter 18, available at www.camcycle.org.uk/newsletters).

Jim Chisholm

*All figures taken from p3 of The wider costs of transport in English urban areas in 2009, available at www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/strategy/work_areas/urban-transport.aspx
The Future of Urban Transport report can be found at www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/regional/policy/urbantransport/