We have a unique opportunity to reassess what we want from our transport networksby Kerry McCarthy / October 7, 2020 / Leave a comment
This year has fundamentally changed the way we live our lives. It’s unlikely that we will see a return to pre-pandemic levels of commuting and business travel, nor are people likely to give up their increasingly online shopping habits. With this change comes a need to reassess what we want from our transport networks.
One of the key trends during the pandemic has been far less traffic on our roads—although car use is now returning to near-normal levels—and a massive increase in walking and cycling. It is a trend that the more forward-looking local authorities have sought to encourage and embed, with pedestrianisation, bike lanes and plans for more low-traffic neighbourhoods. Looking to the future, we will also have to consider how we designate road space for electric scooters and mopeds (the government is currently running pilots, but it’s a fair assumption this is just a prelude to full acceptance), which are already common in many European cities. A few pop-up bike lanes are not going to do the job.
Where do cars fit into these plans? And, with the growth in online shopping and food deliveries, how do we avoid our streets becoming clogged up with a swarm of polluting delivery vehicles? To counter that, we need to start rethinking the design of our towns and cities. Rather than sending vans straight to our doors, we should be planning distribution hubs on urban outskirts, which allow clean electric vans and cargo bikes to perform the last leg of the delivery. As more cities introduce clean air zones, with bans or charges on polluting vehicles, this may well become a commercial necessity for businesses too.
Making far more rapid progress on electric vehicle charging infrastructure is going to be absolutely crucial, especially if the government is serious about bringing forward the ban on new combustion engine sales from 2040—its current policy—to 2035 or even, as the Committee on Climate Change has recommended, 2032.
The UK has only 5 per cent of the electric vehicle charging points we will need by 2030. This risks undermining one of the few transport success stories of the past few months: that zero…