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Bus cuts bad news for everybody

Isle of Wight County Press Image

Friday, August 11, 2017 - 11:00

From Dr Iain Maclennan, Alverstone:
Amy Mackelden’s opinion piece ‘How are we supposed to get around?’ (CP Weekender, 04-08-17) struck a resounding chord with me.

Like Amy, I have found it gratifying bucking the current trend favouring personal motorised transport over active travel or public transport. Confident that, even when the day finally dawned that my wife and I were no longer able to get around by walking or cycling, we’d still have a bus that stopped outside our house, we disposed of our car nearly four years ago and have never driven since.
Now — thanks to ‘austerity’ — our local bus service is no more, and to catch a bus into town we now have a 25-minute walk along an unlit country road with no footpath to reach the nearest bus stop.
The added irony is that we live in an old railway station, the closure of which was justified by the availability of the omnibus service.
Life in the UK is now constructed around the needs of the motorist: the relocation of shopping facilities from the high street to retail parks; one-way road systems, cul-de-sacs, kerbside railings, pedestrian crossings and underpasses — all conspire to force pedestrians and cyclists to travel further to get around.
The overriding priority is to ‘keep the traffic moving’.
The car industry contributes £34.2 billion to the economy, but road congestion costs the UK an estimated £20 billion per year.
The health costs of motoring from declining air quality, lack of exercise, increasing obesity, poor mental health etc. are incalculable.
“But it’s my choice!” I hear the inveterate motorist cry.
Yes…but we need to be mindful that — like austerity — this is a political choice, not just a personal one.
Human mobility (within reason) is a public good that should make it a priority for public investment.
But our preoccupation with the ‘bottom line’ means a public transport network comprehensive enough to cover all the places people need to travel to is currently deemed unaffordable, so we carry on prioritising the motorist.
We scrap the bus service because it’s unprofitable and “everyone has a car now”, and then, as Amy says, “the bus service is inadequate, so I have to get a car”.
This vicious cycle creates a ‘Tragedy of the Commons’, where free choice (for motorists at least) means everybody gets what nobody wants — a congested road system where there is no viable transport alternative.

 


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