Sunday, 27 January 2008

The Council’s transport policy? It’s enough to make you sick

This week a paper in the British Medical Journal gave warning that climate change could be particularly damaging to the health of people in the developing world, but research also suggests that it could be bad news for Britain.

“What we do to deal with climate change could bring about a revolution in public health,” says Ian Roberts, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. For example, reducing our dependence on cars should mean that more people walk and cycle, leading to a decrease in obesity. It should also reduce road accidents, which kill more than 3,000 Britons a year. “At the moment we are in a vicious cycle,” says Professor Roberts. “We use our cars more and get fatter because we are not exercising. As we get heavier, we become more dependent on fossil fuels because we are reluctant to walk or cycle at all. We need to break this loop.

But the London Borough of Waltham Forest is not breaking the loop. It is strengthening it, by seizing more pavement space for car parking (which not only degrades the walking environment but promotes faster vehicle speeds), neglecting the walking environment on a spectacular scale, introducing traffic calming which actually agitates traffic and worsens conditions for cycling (I refer to rubber speed cushions), failing to install speed cameras at lethal locations, neglecting the maintenance of cycle facilities, failing to replace lost cycle stands, failing to provide adequate cycle parking… In short, as our species moves slowly towards extinction, this Council is, in its own small way, actively assisting the process.