The summer 2011 edition appears today, and in the article that follows you will find the lead editorial by founding editor John Whitelegg, along with abstracts of the principal contributions. (For a more complete introduction to WTPP click here.)
– John Whitelegg, Editor
The papers in this issue of WTPP all connect in different ways to the needs, aspirations and conditions associated with reduced car traffic and much improved opportunities for the sustainable modes especially walking and cycling. We have frequently identified the crucial importance of cycling in this journal and the degree to which it is misunderstood or simply ignored in the world of transport professionals.
One of the worrying aspects of cycling in places like London and New York is that it is increasingly seen as the preserve of relatively young, affluent professional males. Given that these people could be in a rather powerful sports car or 4WD it is still something to celebrate that they are on bikes but we need to pay more attention to all ages, both genders and different degrees of physical aptitude and risk taking behaviour.
Walking has the potential to cast the net very wide indeed and make a substantial contribution to health, lively communities and low carbon futures. This is nothing new. The debate about walking and its potential has been massively enriched by the presence of excellent NGOs, creative architects like Jan Gehl, a substantial literature pioneered by Mayer Hillman 30 years ago and more recently by Rod Tolley. The startling thing about walking is how bad it really is in most parts of the world and how large is the gap between the rhetoric and the practice.
It is tempting at this point to make a list of all the bad things that we see on our daily walk trips and conclude that something should be done about it, but two recent publications strongly indicate that this approach is not as likely to be as successful as a much more up-beat approach painting a picture or a vision of a much better future and what it would look like and feel like. The two pieces of work that point in this direction are the Low Carbon Transport study from the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), University of York and the report “Sell the Sizzle: the new climate message” from Futerra (see references).
The SEI report produces a robust scientific analysis of how we can largely de-carbonise the UK transport system by 2050. Comparing its maximum impact scenario with what emissions are likely to be by 2050 on a business as usual scenario it estimates that a 76% reduction in overall CO2 emissions is possible. It then goes beyond the science to paint a picture of what life would actually look like in UK 2050 in a low carbon transport society. It paints a picture of a calmer, cleaner, greener, more accessible system.
People will spend a lot less time stuck in jams and commuting, neighbourhoods and communities will be rich in service provision e.g. shops, jobs and post offices and walking and cycling will be the norm on streets with much reduced traffic levels and with no exhaust pollution. The very young and the elderly will receive significant improvements in quality of life through much improved opportunities to move around easily and at low cost and the lack of pollution and noise will improve health and contribute to reduced obesity.
High levels of walking and cycling in this study are no longer vague aspirations and poorly supported policy objectives. They actually happen because changes in the physical environment make them happen.
The Futerra study raises this general approach to transport futures to a fine art based on how to communicate attractive messages about much improved futures. Whilst we have some reservations about the language around “selling the sizzle rather than the sausage” the point is well made and undoubtedly attractive. We strongly recommend this approach to communicating clear visions of a bright, attractive, happy future based on lots more walking and we strongly recommend the insights of Steve Melia and his co-authors in this issue about car-free and low car futures. These are very clear and attractive visions of the future
The paper by Helmut Holzapfel in this issue is also visionary. He sets out a clear case for reductions in miles driven, flown or travelled by high speed rail. He shows that distance intensive life styles are just another aspect of rather pointless consumerism and that there are considerable advantages in changing this and moving to a “new slowness”.
– – – > Download Vol. 16, No 2 here.
* Futerra (2010) Sell the Sizzle: the new climate message. http://www.futerra.co.uk/downloads/Sellthesizzle.pdf
* Stockholm Environment Institute (2010) Towards a zero carbon vision for UK transport
Vol. 16, No. 2. Abstracts & Keywords
Too Good To Be True? An Assessment of the Melbourne Travel Behaviour Modification Pilot
– Anthony Morton and Paul Mees
Travel Behaviour Modification (TBM) uses individualised marketing to change public perceptions of the attractiveness of walking, cycling and public transport, with the aim of bringing about mode shift. TBM is attractive to policy makers because it promises changes to travel patterns without the need for expensive or controversial alterations to substantive transport policies. The Australian government has allocated $18.3 million from its Greenhouse Gas Abatement Program for the TravelSmart brand of TBM and state and local governments have also joined the programme. The Victorian government is a strong supporter, and claims that a trial of TravelSmart along Melbourne’s Alamein rail corridor in 2003 reduced car driver trips by 10 per cent, and increased public transport, walking and cycling trips by 23-27 per cent.
Some of the governmental support for TBM may be a form of ‘greenwash’, in which responsibility for environmentally unsustainable transport policies is deflected from transport policy makers to the public. In these cases, TBM may be a form of public relations disguising the fact that no real changes are being made to transport priorities. For this reason, and because TBM consultants naturally have an interest in seeing their ‘products’ succeed, it is important that the results claimed for TBM programmes are carefully scrutinised.
One TBM intervention that has received considerable scrutiny is the TravelSmart programme conducted in South Perth in 2000, which was the subject of a spirited debate at the 2003 ATRF. Our review of the South Perth public transport data, and subsequent data from the 2001 census, casts doubt on the claims of substantial increases in public transport patronage.
The most likely cause of the discrepancy between the results reported from TBM trials, and independent data like patronage counts and census results is an issue that was not extensively discussed in the 2003 ATRF debate, namely statistical ‘artifacts’ arising from interactions between the TBM researchers and participants. Such interactions include ‘expectancy bias’ in which the pressure that (self-selected) TBM participants feel to report a positive outcome leads to an over-statement of the extent to which behaviour has changed. This can in turn lead to sampling and non-response biases, as people who have not in fact changed their travel behaviour are reluctant to report the fact.
Close examination of the results of the Alamein TravelSmart pilot reveals these effects at work. In particular, it reveals that a statistically significant number of those who agreed to participate in the trial did not complete the ‘after’ survey enabling comparison with their travel behaviour before TBM. The most likely explanation for this is a reluctance to report that their behaviour had not, in fact, changed. Our analysis also reveals that the statistical weighting techniques employed in analysing the survey data had the effect of magnifying any errors in the original data, rather than correcting the errors. Our overall conclusion is that it cannot be safely inferred from the survey results that the Alamein pilot produced any significant change in travel behaviour.
The South Perth and Alamein results provide strong evidence that statistical artifacts are responsible for much, and possibly all, of the mode shift apparently produced by TravelSmart programmes. We make a number of recommendations for improving the evaluation of such programmes in the future, and caution that until these changes are made, policy makers should be sceptical of the claims made on behalf of TBM techniques.
Keywords: Melbourne, TravelSmart, walking, cycling, public transport, transport policy, individualised marketing, travel patterns, change
Carfree, low-car – What’s the Difference?
– Dr Steve Melia
This paper aims to propose a definition and typology of carfree development and to assess the benefits and problems associated with it. It aims to contrast these with the concept and practice of ‘low car’ development.
Through a review of the literature and study visits to European carfree areas, 3 types of carfree development were identified: the Vauban model, Limited Access model and pedestrianised city centres with substantial residential populations. Differences in the previous definitions of carfree development reflect two different aspects of the concept: exclusion of vehicles from the residential area, and places where people live without owning cars. The definition proposed here reflects both of these, although neither was absolutely implemented in the examples visited. Although intermediate cases are possible, in practice clear differences are apparent between the carfree and ‘low car’ developments reviewed in the literature and studied in one case, in the UK.
The study visits supported the claims in the literature that carfree developments help to reduce problems created by traffic in urban areas. They facilitate active travel and independent play amongst children. Their main problems relate to the management of parking and vehicular access. Low car developments by contrast can offer similar benefits to policymakers, but fewer benefits to residents.
Keywords: Carfree development, benefits, problems, ‘low car’ development, Vauban, ‘Limited Access’, pedestrianised city centres
Urbanisation and the need for sustainable development. Everywhere and nowhere
– Helmut Holzapfel
This article challenges the dominant ideology that suggests that ever increasing levels of mobility are a good thing. The apparently inexorable growth of all categories of traffic but especially car miles driven must be challenged. The growth in distances routinely travelled by car distorts concepts of space and time and damages landscape and we now inhabit a distance-intensive world. The consumption of distance and the urge to be everywhere results in people being nowhere.
This is a global problem and the world cannot sustain Californian or German levels of mobility applied to China and India. The distance intensive life style is strongly associated with stress and the urge to do more things in smaller units of time. The disadvantages of this lifestyle paradigm now outweigh the advantages and there is an urgent need to change social and other values to move in a different direction.
The article concludes by looking forward to a world where localism and regionalism are celebrated and near things are appreciated as calmer and intrinsically more satisfying than distant things. Ubiquity may lose its power and proximity will gain respect and attention.
Keywords: mobility levels, traffic growth, landscape, distance intensive lifestyle, stress, localism, regionalism
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About the editor:
John Whitelegg is visiting Professor of Sustainable Transport at Liverpool John Moores University and Professor of Sustainable Development at University of York’s Stockholm Environment Institute, and is founder and editor of the Journal of World Transport Policy and Practice. John is a local councillor in Lancaster.
About the authors
Dr. Paul Mees is a senior lecturer in transport planning at RMIT. Previously, he worked at the University of Melbourne and the Australian National University’s Urban Research Program, and before becoming an academic he was a lawyer. Paul is the author of A Very Public Solution: Transport in the Dispersed City, published by Melbourne University Press, and has been a consultant to local, regional and State government transport and planning agencies in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. His new book Transport for Suburbia: Beyond the Automobile Age, published by Earthscan of London, was launched in April and is now in its second print run.
Steve Melia is a Senior Lecturer in Transport and Planning at the University of the West of England. His PhD, completed last year, explored the Potential for Carfree Development in the UK. During the three summers of 2006 to 2008 he cycled over 5,000 miles across seven countries visiting and studying European carfree developments and cities which have been successful in reducing car dependency. Steve is a founder member of Carfree UK (www.carfree.org.uk) and has worked as a freelance journalist, concentrating on transport and planning issues in recent years (see www.stevemelia.co.uk) .
Hugh Barton is Professor of planning, health and sustainability and Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Healthy Urban Environments at the University of the West of England, Bristol. After training and practising as a town planner he specialised in the relationship between urban form and energy, social inclusion and health. His books include ‘Local Environmental Auditing’, ‘Sustainable Settlements’, ‘Sustainable Communities’, ‘Healthy Urban Planning’ (translated into many languages) and ‘Shaping Neighbourhoods’ (revised 2010). His work for the WHO European Healthy Cities programme in Europe and the UK has been building bridges between planning, design and health professionals. Currently he is leading research for NICE into the degree to which the planning system incorporates health issues effectively.
Professor Graham Parkhurst has two decades of experience researching and teaching transport policy. He is Director of the Centre for Transport & Society at UWE, a research group of more than 25 staff and research students with a social science focus. Graham’s current research commitments include the EU-supported Civitas Renaissance project evaluating sustainable transport measures in Bath and a UK research council-funded project to consider the future mobility of older citizens in rural areas. He is also involved in the UK Government evaluation study of the travel behaviour effects of the ‘Cycling City and Towns’ programme.