Walking along the riverside, I noticed a fallen crack willow. They are the kind of tree that simply refuses to give up. Fallen to the watery ground into the stream, it had started to shoot off new branches straight up into the sky, unperturbed or oblivious. Yet seemingly as to let the world know: I am alive; though I may have tipped over and lie here, I will grow anew.
It is this cracked willow that reminds me of our UK traffic forecasts. It looks quite like the graph that CBT produced from DfT’s NTM data, see below and the article on CBT’s website. Just like the fallen crack willow, the DfT forecasters won’t give up. We can grow, still. Peak car, what’s one of those? And so, every year we start again with the assumption that more motoring (cars, driving) will be around, simply because that sort of thing must be around (for jobs, growth, future prosperity).
Our belief is stuck on that rickety carousel with the eerie music of ‘predict & provide’ playing forever. A record that’s been drummed into our ears over and over again – the needle is blunt and the sound scratchy and grating. This, now, is about faith not facts.
What this tells me is this. The trio of oil-road-car (Bermuda triangle for a sustainable world) does not need a lobby anymore. It has become the system. The lawnmower man, fully uploaded. The Matrix, without the red pill. Dr Frankenstein’s son is drawing the lottery numbers on national television. Pervasive. Everywhere. We breathe it, in and out. Professional practice practises it – no thinking required. Politicians believe in it, preach it even. And we, the public, are passively consuming it. Much is implied, goes without saying. For an outsider it is like a secret society. The rules are unwritten, yet strongly adhered to. The system is hermetically sealed in a logic- and evidence-proof container.
Whenever you would like to talk about transport cycling, the strong system of oil-road-car is directly stacked against it. It’s not a fair fight. A dominant paradigm flattens any challenger with no mercy, in no time. This is why it is so important to formulate sustainable transport (energy etc) visions and policies. And to intelligently devise plans, processes and strategies to implement those policies and vision. From what I can see, we have had decades of talking tough to a fortress wall when we should have begun to take it down, brick by brick. It was pointed out to me recently, that 2016 will mark the 20-year anniversary of UK’s National Cycling Strategy. No laurels, just cracked willows. We know the silent advance of the oil-road-car system will have been arrested when two things start to happen:
- there is a normalised meaning of inclusive cycling and its associated designs (that vision must permeate into general consciousness)
- transport authorities have mapped out and plan cycle networks (like they did for motoring)
Overall, thinking that we can tackle cycling without putting cracks in the oil-road-car system is a fanciful thought for one, if not a ludicrous one for another.