Tuesday 15 November 2011

Motor car madness. A warning from 40 years ago

This film was made by Alan Wakeman in 1970. Just like the New Scientist article from 1981 which I featured a few weeks ago, this shows that there have always been people who can see the problems that we face. Unfortunately they both also demonstrate that those who can see the problems are often not listened to.

Alan's work has continued right up to the current day with a recent proposal for improvement to policies in London to result in each individual village of London regaining its character.


Anonymous said...

And today, three decades on, the UK parliament are debating not the rights of humans to walk and breathe, but the cost of petrol and how much misery an extra 3p per litre will bring.
Mark Garrett, Bristol UK

John Romeo Alpha said...

Excellent and thought-provoking: we've motored too far down the route of turning over our cities to the automobile. Streets filled with pedestrians and trees is a worthy vision, and I would challenge any urban planner to explain why the car-centric alternatives are still being designed and implemented.

amoeba said...

It's a case of 'build it and they will come', except they built roads for cars and the cars came and clogged the roads, belching clouds of noxious dangerous fumes that shorten lives and deafening noise that destroys communities. And when the cars can get up to speed they too often mow-down cyclists and pedestrians, tearing them limb from limb. Now most people feel too scared to cycle or walk and take the car. Instead of being part of the solution, they're part of the problem. And everyone including the children are getting fat.
And no-one cares, well not the: Politicians; drivers; Judiciary; or the Police.
They chorus: "It's inevitable; it's progress", as if such madness were a good idea.

I don't see progress, I see a living hell.

Fonant said...

Sounds like the Dutch government watched this, and decided to take the alternative route. Was the Netherlands the first country in the world to tame the motor car? The UK certainly wasn't!

Anonymous said...

Actually many of the things he mentions WERE done. Britain was actually one of the first countries to introduce pedestrianised areas - after all Traffic in Towns was written here.

Much of Alan Wakeman's idea of cutting up London into discrete chunks was proposed by Abercrombie. And in any case, as we know, the problem isn't so much the back streets as the main roads. He doesn't mention cycling at all but to get to those village sections you need to use the major roads - and they are the places we have utterly failed to provide decent facilities (as you have often pointed out).

Huddersfield bound trucks have long since been evicted from Piccadilly Circus, but only through provision of the M25...

The pedestrian tunnels under Hyde Park Corner were identified by Gehl Architects for removal and were ripped out in the early 2000s.

highwayman said...

Actually, the best innovation so far is the Charge Zone in central London. In compliance with the law of supply & demand, mostly those with business in the centre are the ones in the centre, and they are willing to pay for the necessary permit to drive there. To belabour the obvious: a huge demand has been placed on central London's infrastructure of which there is very limited capacity (supply); therefore the price is set and raised up. The result is a smoother flowing city centre.

That's what I saw when I visited London in winter/spring 2005: smooth-flowing traffic and pleasent walking conditions.

From what I've read, Stockholm was also successful in instituting a charge zone and getting good results.

If only the New York State Legislature allowed New York City to do the same for Midtown and Downtown Manhattan. Those are two clear cases for a charge zone.

It would make way more bearable the traffic on 42nd, 34th, Houston, and Canal Streets; and give other types of users a chance.

DopeyDave said...

Since 2005 London's got a lot worse, a 4 mile bus from West Hampstead to Hamleys takes over an hour during the day.
Little free flow of traffic now.
Supply & demand = those on expenses (tax deductible = the 99% subsidise them) or with lots of cash can travel while ordinary people's mobility is severely constrained.
Looking at the people cycling in London, most are young and probably forced to cycle by the high cost of private & public transport. They do this despite the deteriorating conditions for cycling: not just the number of cars but the idiotic highwaymen who design things like the Bow St interchange & Elephant & Castle roundabout so cars can get to the next 5 minute delay 5 seconds earlier.
Supply and demand will only work if most of the people can't afford it - a nice world to live in?
The only workable solution which treats ordinary people with respect is to severely reduce car use and expand public transport, walking & cycling.