Hello blog types,
It’s been a while, but last year was a bit of write-off for more and less apparent reasons. And with that in mind, we start a new year with the resolve to be more vocal and active, and what better place to start than bellowing into the blogosphere. So happy new year, and here goes another cheery rant….
New year, same old disconnected thinking about car culture. Stuff that’s so patently connected that to miss the link cannot be negligent, but has to be deliberate. Just taking the news today, three stories that were reported separately and confusedly:
- Exposure to heavy traffic may cause dementia (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-38506735). That is to say, there is a potentially significant increased rate of dementia in people who live within 50 metres of major roads. Because this impairs people’s health, this is considered BAD NEWS.
- At 2.69 million, a record number of new cars were registered in the UK in 2016 (http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-eu-autos-registrations-idUKKBN14P00X). Because this enhances people’s freedom to drive, this is considered GOOD NEWS (the revelations of excess exposure to traffic and dementia risk reported just minutes earlier notwithstanding). However, 2017 is expected to see a dip in car sales as a) Sterling is expected to flounder further as the UK formally embarks on the protracted idiocy of leaving the European Union, rendering foreign cars more expensive and b) people’s increasing preference for lower-faff on-demand car services such as Uber points to a potential fall in demand for individually owned motor cars. Because this affects the outlook of car-makers, who wield substantial economic clout despite gradually unmasking themselves as the 21st-century equivalent of the tobacco company, this is considered WORRYING NEWS.
- Fuel prices hit an 18-month high due to a fall in production and the fall in Sterling (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-38505980). Because this impairs people’s freedom to drive, this is again considered BAD NEWS.
Three car stories reported in total isolation from one another. Knitting the stories together, we get a more coherent narrative:
“A report today revealed yet another way in which our over-reliance on motor vehicles may be seriously damaging our health. In addition to the tens of thousands of annual deaths attributable to road traffic collisions and respiratory illnesses caused by vehicle emissions, a recent report suggested that as many as 11% of dementia cases in people living within 50 metres of major roads could be a consequence of exposure to traffic. Whether this is due to pollution particles actually physically affecting the brain, the effect of noxious emission gases, stress from constant traffic noise or a combination of factors requires further investigation.
Given the severe health impacts of excessive motor traffic, 2016 worryingly saw an all-time record in the registration of new vehicles in the UK. Over the course of the year, almost 2.7 million new vehicles took the country’s roads, exacerbating already chronic levels of congestion, pollution and risks to public health. Fortunately, however, this figure is forecast to fall over the coming year as the self-inflicted squeeze on household budgets following the EU referendum renders private motor vehicles less affordable, and the projected rise in shared-car use heralded by app-driven services such as Uber may reduce individual vehicle ownership over the medium to long term. Further, after a prolonged period of irresponsibly low prices, a hike in the cost of fossil-fuel-based vehicle fuels was welcomed as a possible brake to excessive vehicle use.”
What do we think? Does that make more sense now?