Sometimes I want to give up….

There are times when the transport madness in which we find ourselves is so depressing that I want to give up even contemplating that we could create a better situation. I was sent a copy of the Coventry freshers supplement of the Coventry Evening Telegraph as I had a submitted a short piece and started reading an article headlined ‘cut costs by taking to life on two wheels’.

Ah great, I thought, they are advising students to ride on bikes. But only when I got to the second par did I realise that I was mistaken as it read ‘students could make significant savings by opting ot use a scooter or motorcycle’. It was, in fact, some kind of publicity campaign by a motorbike lobbying group.

This was depressing in two ways. First, why had the author of the article not suggested cycling or even mentioned it. But secondly, it shows the extent to which it is assumed that students need their own form of transport, rather than using buses or trains. Indeed, when I was back in my old hunting ground of Leamington Spa the other day, the biggest complaint about students was not their rowdy behaviour or their dope smoking, but the fact that their cars meant it was difficult to park. In a way, I can’t wait for the inevitable oil price rise that will come soon to change their behaviour.

  • In fairness, this is mainly a (predictable) side-effect of setting the minimum legal driving age at 17. This means Higher- and Further Education students are still coping with the sheer novelty of the automobile. (A change in the law to limit more powerful vehicles to older, more experienced drivers arguably makes more sense than the present “you can drive pretty much anything from the age of 17!” system.)

    Scooters and motorcycles do, however, have one important benefit over cars: they reduce congestion. Given the predominance of medieval roads and city layouts in the UK (and much of Europe), I think there’s something to be said for encouraging greater use of two-wheeled vehicles over their four-wheeled counterparts wherever feasible. Remember, the danger of motor scooters and their ilk stems mostly from impact with cars and large vehicles; reducing the latter in favour of the former should make the former statistically safer. In theory, at least.)

    This isn’t to say that the humble bicycle doesn’t have its own benefits. Personally, I can’t stand modern bikes. They’re shockingly uncomfortable, unstable and often have terrible riding positions, where you’re looking at the ground rather than the road ahead. (I’ve always preferred the older, more upright, designs, which actually let you see where you’re going without getting a cricked neck.) Most appear to be designed for speed, rather than commuting. It’s no surprise to see the more upright design in common use in cities where cycling is more popular. (Copenhagen is a real eye-opener, but I can’t see their infrastructure working well in London.)

    The problem with the roads is that we’re using them for *everything*, with pedestrians, bicycles, scooters, Volvos and Ferraris all sharing the same infrastructure. Nobody would run a horse-drawn train of wagons down HS1, yet we think nothing of permitting such a wild mix of propulsion methods and devices to use our roads. This is simply, utterly and completely insane. Until this stops, our town and city roads will *always* be dangerous and congested.

  • Charlie S

    Hah, if only. There are fewer student cars on the road this year in Leamington after the university banned student car parking permits on campus – forcing up the daily parking price to £3.00 – the ‘environmentally friendly’ outcome of this? Congestion on an unreliable student bus service which utterly fails to respond to the needs of its passengers. I use that bus service twice a day. It is bloody awful.

    And as it happens, if you do ride a motorbike to Warwick these days, it is free to park it too!

  • Dan

    “it shows the extent to which it is assumed that students need their own form of transport”

    Student car use and parking is a massive issue in neighbourhoods in my city. I’m not sure if it is related to the demographic (basically posh kids at provicial city Russel Group University) but car ownership amongst students seems to be just as high as amongst any other social group, possibly hiher than the low income ‘host population’ of the area they live in during term time – and they all have newish expensive cars (often, I note with parking permits for places like London Borough of Chelsea / Westminster etc etc in the window indicating where their families live).

    And when they have cars they want to use them.

    It causes massive conflict over street use with long standing residents feeling they have more of a ‘right’ to park than the students, and of course the HMO houses result in 4 or 5 cars per dwelling, when the frontage to the street is often one car wide.

    I’m not convinced cycle useage amongst students here is esp high.

    he university is on a high frequency bus route with services onto the centre of the campus every 15 mins and other services passing the campus as often as every 2-3 minutes. However, I note taxi use amongst students is also esp high – it’s like they have lost the ability to navigate around without a car and sat nav. So much for having ‘an education’!

  • RapidAssistant

    On the subject of Peak Oil, it’s been quite interesting reading the opinions of the key members of the UK Industry task force whose report was published on February 10th.

    Here we have a cast of characters representing the country’s biggest renewable electricity provider (SSE), one of the biggest civil engineering consultancy firms (Arup) who can build all the necessary renewable electricity generating stations and rail electrification schemes. And the boss of a train company whose trains mostly run on electrified lines.

    So it was only obvious that they were going to say that Peak Oil could happen in less than 5-years time……and there’s my point – IMHO the oil running out will be a bigger global catastrophe than climate change (you don’t have to watch the Mad Max films – try reading Vernon Coleman’s “Oil Apocalypse: How To Survive, Protect Your Family And Profit Through The Coming Years Of Crisis”), yet we have oil companies and energy consumers both burying their heads in the sand that it won’t happen and blindly playing politics.

    And we’ve been here before – experts knew that the 2007-8 credit crunch was inevitable, but they were ignored by governments and the vested interests of the financial industry ensured that they weren’t listened to.

    For the same reason, I think that the fuel crises we’ve had so far are small fry in comparison to what is to come.