When the history of automobility and transport policy is properly documented . . .

The Journal of World Transport Policy and Practice is the long-standing idea and print partner of World Streets and the New Mobility Agenda since 1995. The Spring 2012 edition appears with articles by Helmut Holzapfel, Nick Williams , Clement N. Guasco, and W.S. Kuotcha, N.S. Ferguson, M. de Langen, G.K. Kululanga and A.M. Grimason.  In the article that follows you will find the hard-hitting lead editorial by founding editor John Whitelegg. 

– – – > To obtain your copy of WTPP 18/1 click here.


– John Whitelegg, Editor

In March this year approximately 70 transport professionals and politicians met in Bremen for the final conference of the EU funded CARE project (Note 1).  Bremen was a very fitting location for a conference dedicated to sensible, practical, intelligent and creative approaches to delivering a transport system and a new approach to mobility that can meet the challenges and tasks associated with carbon reduction.

Bremen has a long history of careful and co-ordinated transport policy interventions that actually work. The Bremen approach is characterised by actually doing things rather than talking about the possibility of doing things and this deserves widespread acclaim.

When the history of automobility and transport policy is properly documented one of the key findings will be the discovery of an enormous chasm between rhetoric and reality. Britain (but the point could also be made about many other countries) is littered with pompous strategy documents, grandiose sustainability rhetoric and a delivery system that still churns out bypasses, motorway widening, new airports, high speed trains and poor quality walking, cycling and public transport systems.

After 30 years of discussion about transport problems in Lancaster (UK) this fine historic city has no park and ride, no tram, no integrated public transport system between rail and bus, no car share, no electronic information system at its bus station, no real time information system at bus stops, no alternatives fuelled buses, no lorry routeing and management system, no active demand management interventions (e.g. travel plans) poor quality walking and cycling facilities and a plan to build a bypass costing £120 million.

Bremen has set down clear markers and standards for increasing cycling levels, public transport use, innovative ticketing solutions, brilliant car share schemes, low emission zones and alternatively fuelled buses to reduce air pollution. The essence of a much needed EU transport policy would be to capture the Bremen virus, replicate it and install it in the DNA of every EU city with more than 100,000 residents.  Now that would be an interesting EU project!

Sadly all is not well in Bremen and there are elements of rogue DNA still in circulation. At the March conference we were told by Senator Dr Joachim Lohse that he intended to build a new motorway link to provide better connections to the port of Bremerhaven.  There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that building this motorway will generate large amounts of extra greenhouse gases and therefore contradict the whole point of the CARE project. Worse still it will disrupt the spatial structure of this attractive region of Germany and accelerate the very things that Professor Kenworthy (and others) argued against at the conference and produce suburbanisation, spatial dispersion and auto-dependent life styles (Note 2).

Building a new motorway in the Bremen region is a really good example of one of the central messages in EU transport policy which is 3 steps forward and 5 steps back. It would be a highly instructive exercise to calculate how many hundreds of thousands of tonnes of CO2 have been saved by Bremen’s’ excellent transport policy interventions in a 10 year period and then compare this number with an estimate of how many hundreds and thousands of tonnes will be generated by the new motorway. In Lancaster (UK) the proposed  bypass  is 4.5 kms in length, with 4 lanes of traffic and  will generate an extra 20,000 tonnes of CO2 pa and this calculation excludes secondary effects e.g. new housing, new warehouses, new developments along the route of the road which is scheduled to traverse open countryside that is currently protected green belt and undeveloped.

For the avoidance of doubt the Bremen motorway plan does not diminish the importance and excellence of the carbon reducing transport policies that have been put in place for over 20 years. These interventions are real and still important but they will now be cancelled out by good, old-fashioned road building.

The Bremen conference finished with a debate and a message that will be sent to the Rio plus 20 congress. This message captures the essence of what has to be done to bring transport thinking and doing into line with global challenges and deserves to be incorporated into all national government, regional administrations and EU commitments immediately. It is a charter for truly sustainable transport (Note 3)

Because of the large volume of submitted articles to this journal we are publishing the first two issues of 2012 at the same time and this editorial covers both issues.

The first two issues of World Transport Policy and Practice in 2012 take up the same challenge of defining, developing and accelerating the take up of truly sustainable transport. This is done in the article on cycling in Washington DC, on rural accessibility in Malawi, on rail freight, on mobility management in Denmark and on the true meaning of mobility and its links to urban form and structure in Germany.

In the article by Nick Williams the lack of intelligence around hospital planning and accessibility is painfully revealed. The case study is in Aberdeen in NE Scotland but the points made are applicable to any large traffic generation site in the developed world.  Interestingly the case study location is exactly the same as another huge blow against sustainable transport policies and objectives. The Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (Note 4) is a 40km + new road through open countryside which will accelerate all the negative tendencies identified by Kenworthy in his Bremen presentation and Holzapfel in this journal.

Finally a brief comment on the exchanges in recent issues between Paul Mees, Jeff Kenworthy and Peter Newman. The editor of this journal has the highest regard for all these inspirational transport authors and commentators.  Readers will be aware that recent articles have revealed fundamental disagreements between two sides of a debate about density and its links with the definition, promotion and delivery of sustainable transport policy objectives. The disagreement is still there but we will not be carrying any more material on this subject. As editors are often quoted as saying “this correspondence is now closed”.

If readers are interested in the details of how urban density is measured and how this is used in international comparisons of city transport they should contact Paul Mees who has produced a detailed critique and for the sake of balance they should also contact Jeff Kenworthy and Peter Newman but from now on this must be done outwith (a very nice Scottish word) the scope of World Transport Policy and Practice.

John Whitelegg, Editor

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Note 1. CARE (Carbon Responsible Transport Strategies in the North Sea Area)

Note 2.  Professor Kenworthy’s presentation was titled “Urban transport from a global perspective” and is available from the conference web site http://www.care-north.eu/care-north-final-conference/programme/wednesday-21-march/wednesday-21-march

Note 3. The CARE-North message to Rio plus 20 http://www.care-north.eu/sites/default/files/Message_to_RIO+20.pdf

Note 4. http://www.awpr.co.uk/

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Editorial Introduction

Abstracts & Keywords

Some Remarks about Mobility
– Professor Helmut Holzapfel

Identifying villages with multiple dimensions of access deprivation: The case of Chikwawa District in rural Malawi
– W.S. Kuotcha, N.S. Ferguson, M. de Langen, G.K. Kululanga, A.M. Grimason

Scotland takes a backward step in access to hospitals
– Nick Williams

Mobility Management in Denmark: New wind in the sails
– Clement N. Guasco

– – – > To obtain your copy of WTPP 18/1 click here.

* For a more complete introduction to World Transport click here.

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About the editor:

 Managing Director of Eco-Logica, John Whitelegg is Visiting Professor of Sustainable Transport at Liverpool John Moores University, Professor of Sustainable Development at the Stockholm Environment Institute, and founder and editor of the Journal of World Transport Policy and Practice. Research interests encompass transport and the environment, definition of sustainable transport systems and a sustainable built environment, development of transport in third world cities focusing on the relationships between sustainability and human health, implementation of environmental strategies within manufacturing and service industry and development of environmental management standards. He has published widely on these topics. John is active in the Green party of England and Wales and is the national spokesperson on sustainable development.

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