E-cars won't solve congestion, says president of Bicycle Association

Carlton Reid
E-cars won't solve congestion, says president of Bicycle Association

In a speech at yesterday's AGM of the Bicycle Association, outgoing president Philip Taylor argued that, over the long term, global urbanisation means car mileage will continue its decline, and bicycle mileage will increase as cities face increasing space, cost and health pressures. 

Philip Taylor has been president of the Bicycle Association for four years. Yesterday, at the AGM of the association for Britain's bicycle and parts suppliers, he handed over to new president Mark Bickerton. His final speech was a rousing one, bristling with statistics which show that Peak Oil and Peak Car will benefit the bicycle trade in the years to come. 

"I would like to draw your attention to a few reliable statistics that I consider more than a little thought-provoking and sobering," started Taylor, who, until his final speech, has been a low key president.

"According to the World Bank, 3.3 billion people now live in cities. By 2030 60 percent of the world’s population will inhabit cities. Every day almost 180,000 people take up residence in cities. In the developing world 60 million people move into cities each year and, unless there is a dramatic and unforeseen population crash, this rate will continue for at least the next 30 years.

"The result is that city populations are growing faster than city infrastructure can adapt and not only does this cause health risks and social problems, but also environmental concerns.  Air quality worsens with the result that worldwide 1 million people die each year as a result of urban air pollution. Traffic increases, leading to more congestion and more road crashes. According to the World Health Organisation, 1.2 million people die, and as many as 50 million are injured, in urban traffic crashes in developing countries each year."

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In a dig against the UK Government's £5000 grants for e-cars, Taylor said: 

"And this statistic is unlikely to change as a result of us all driving electric cars - however heavily subsidised!"

Taylor added: 

"These circumstances are not just occurring in Asia, Africa and South America, they are also happening in developed countries right across the globe and, although at a lower rate than the average, the UK is no exception. In fact, to the contrary in respect of population, as 80 percent of the total UK populace - that’s over 50 million - is classified as urban dwelling and urbanisation here is forecast to grow at 0.7 percent - 350,000 people - per annum to 2015."

He believes this has massive implications for infrastructure spend on an island with finite space:

"Urban development officers and transport planners have to face these facts and provide solutions wherever possible. Improving, or adding to both affordable housing stocks and transport infrastructure is costly, or downright impossible in urban environments where land is generally at a premium price-wise or simply just not available.

"In addition, increasing the frequency of or adding services to public transport is made even more difficult when, despite flexible working hours, so many commuters inevitably travel to and from their workplace at almost the same time each day. Only so many over-ground and underground trains, trams and buses can occupy the existing or potential, available space and making each conveyance larger obviously has its physical limitation.

:Furthermore, both to and from the station or stop, there is usually a distance to be travelled by each individual and that inevitably means walking, or hopefully, cycling. 

"Integrating urban and suburban public and personal transport has never been such an important, global topic and to highlight the fact next week in Leipzig the International Transport Forum – Transport’s equivalent of the World Economic Forum in Davos – will, for the first time and with the theme ‘Transport for Society’, have cycling not only on the agenda, but also on the platform, represented by the European Cyclists' Federation’s Manfred Neun who will be supported by members of Colibi and Coliped."

Taylor talked about his family's long involvement in cycling. He is the third generation to be involved with the bike trade. His grandfather started the Comrade Cycle Company after the First World War, and this became one of the biggest manufacturers of bicycles in the UK, foundering in the 1980s with the flood of cheap imports.

'Peak Bike' might have happened in the 1930s in Britain but Taylor says all the signs are there to show that cycling will have another, probably much longer Golden Age:

"Although cycling in the UK may still not be what is was in the early 20th century in either an industrial sense, or in ownership and usage terms, it is, I am convinced, on an unstoppable upward trend that can only be positive for all involved in the sector."

Tags: BAGB

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