Cars will always be king; the sooner we tarmac the last remaining green fields the better. That kind of thinking was the kind of Thatcheresque BS that has hitherto fuelled demand for cars.
Build it and they will come. And they did. Motorists clogged up most of the roads available and those of us who bike around the city have been wondering when people will wake up to the car-nage that’s been inflicted on Britain’s urban spaces, fast-moving metal pushing flesh and blood to one side.
The recession is forcing businesses to re-evaluate their fuel budgets. Urban planners now ‘get’ what we’ve been banging on about for years. The greening of the economy isn’t solar-powered, it’s being hastened because it’s fiscally the right thing to do. Fifteen years ago the academic Dr Meyer Hillman said the future would require ‘carbon rationing’. He was labelled batty, a bike-riding fearmonger. Now his ideas are moving into the mainstream.
There’s only so much fossil fuel to go around. We’ve burnt most of it already – frittered it away, in fact – and we’ve all but ignored the alternatives. (American car making giants famously crippled urban trams in the 1930s and ‘40s, and hobbled emerging electric car technologies in the 1970s and 1980s – you know, the same car giants that said the free market killed off everything but the infernal combustion engine, but who saw no irony in being bailed out by US taxpayers, the complete opposite of a free market).
In the most recent Israeli blockage of Gaza, Palestinians were starved of petrol. One image was seared into my head: a small car being pulled by a couple of horses. Slowly. That’s a potential future for us, too. Before we burn the last drop of oil, perhaps the powers that-be will realise there’s an ultra-efficient intra-urban transport device staring them in the face? It’s powered by milk and cornflakes. You sell them.
Of course, the bike trade relies on road transport just as much as any retail sector – TNT ain’t gonna deliver bike boxes with pedal-power – but it’s in a better position than most industries to, ahem, ride out the recession. We should be at the forefront of the revolution, broadcasting the bike message at every available opportunity. Daft as a brush? Well-meaning, but naive? No, good business sense.