In a headline in The Times, the paper’s transport correspondent writes "Transport experts have seen the future, and it’s got pedals."
According to a new government report by Foresight, the right to travel when, where and how fast people please will have to be modified over the next 50 years as the shortage of cheap oil and environmental concerns force the majority of people to lead more local lives.
Cars will become expensive, heavily-taxed, rationed luxuries. Bikes will be everywhere.
Foresight recommends that congestion should be tackled by making more intelligent use of existing capacity rather than by building roads.
The report said: We cannot presume that we will have cheap oil for the next 50 years, [or that] we can respond to increasing demand by building more capacity, [or that] we will continue to have the right to move as and when we please.
Foresight believes motorists should pay the real costs of their journeys, including compensating for the environmental damage cars cause. The think-tank also recommends the introduction of Mayer Hillman’s ‘carbon tax’.
Dr Hillman, a cyclist, has been calling for a ‘carbon tax’ for many years. In a talk at last year’s Velo City conference in Dublin, Hillman gave a talk entitled ‘Carbon rationing to limit climate change: The most effective way of promoting cycling.’
In a Radio 4 round-table discussion about climate change last year, Dr Hillman said:
"Each person in this country is responsible for the carbon dioxide emissions of about ten tonnes each year from all their fossil fuel-using activity. That level of ten has got to come down, per person, to just over one tonne. In order to achieve that degree of reduction, close on ninety per cent, one has obviously to look at those areas which are the most energy intensive. The most obvious area is in the field of transport."
Also on the same Radio 4 panel was Sir David King, the head of the Office of Science and Technology. Yesterday, introducing Foresight’s report, the governments chief scientific adviser said:
I think it is very likely that as we move forward, the implications of energy provision mean we are going to see less demand for transport."
Transport Minister Stephen Ladyman is to chair a group that will assess progress towards resolving the issues raised by Foresight’s report.
Ladyman said: We have two choices. We can stumble into the future in the hope it turns out right, or we can try to shape it.
UK local and national government does not yet take cycling seriously
For instance, Cambridge is usually touted as one of the most cycle-friendly cities in the UK, but cash for cycling is hard to come by. Cambridge’s Provisional Local Transport Plan 2006-2011 reveals that 77 percent of the transport budget is to be spent on motorists; 22 percent on public transport and just 0.6 percent on walking and cycling.