11: Climate change – countering objections to effective measures

One of government’s primary functions is to intervene when the expression of too much freedom of choice by individuals can be seen to be prejudicial to the public interest.

Nowhere is there a greater need for urgent action on this front than in the domain of fuel consumption for heating and transport owing to the effect that this is having on the world’s climate. Evidence of its consequences in the form of exceptional weather patterns is accumulating at an alarming rate and is apparent in the rising incidence of hot summers, the retreat of glaciers, the melting of the tundra in Siberia and so on. There are numerous measures that can be adopted to promote energy conservation practices to reduce consumption. However, whenever radical ones are proposed, it seems that our first instinct is to scrutinise them in order to establish what is wrong with them and, if any fault can be detected, to reject them. Continue reading

10: Spreading altruism with a pyramid-selling technique

In my contribution to last year’s Compendium, I referred to the obvious need to pay more attention to the implications of our personal decisions from a public interest perspective. The growing anonymity of our lives, which is strongly associated both with the geographical spread of daily activity and easy access to home entertainment, has nurtured a culture of self-interest. People we do not know represent an increasing proportion of those whose paths we cross in the course of our lives outside the home, yet it is instinctive to feel more accountable to those we recognise and may meet again, particularly if we know them by name. Likewise, we care more and therefore take more care to protect and enhance the environments in which we spend more of our time. Continue reading

9: Providing for cycling and walking cheaper than more public transport

Spending on public transport is a conspicuous and attractive way to tackle the problems caused by the growth in car use. But the cost per person mile for public transport provision is far higher than that for cycling and walking. Continue reading

8: The need for new indicators of personal conduct

‘At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is the national interest’ (John Major in a recent House of Commons debate on Europe).

‘Of course, we all want to do the best for our children’ (John Major in the House of Commons, commenting on the Blair parents’ recent decision to send their son to an opt-out school eight miles away from the family home).

And so it goes on. It is now judged perfectly reasonable to justify actions which disregard the consequences for others and to take for granted that no one will be challenged on this account. This moral decline in behaviour is viewed as normal, probably because it has become so universal. Continue reading

7: Fair pay, play fair

In order to contain inflationary pressures in the economy and to facilitate the process of pay-round bargaining to that end, each year Government has been determining a percentage target increase for earnings in the public sector for the following year. The increase is intended to take into account the rate of inflation and what can be afforded from the overall improved efficiency and productivity of the previous year. The current figure is around 1.5 per cent. Continue reading

6: Roadside plaques to mark fatalities

For the last ten years, a total of over 50,000 people have been killed on the roads of Britain. Yet the carnage continues, like ritual Aztec sacrifices, on the altar of the motor car, albeit geographically-random rather than site-specific. How is it that we are able to pretend that most of these highly distressing so-called ‘accidents’ have not happened? How is it that, though of course not admitted aloud, these deaths are viewed as an acceptable price to pay in order to derive the benefits of using motorised transport? Continue reading

5: Disincentives for energy saving

In spite of the effort invested in lowering fuel consumption in the last two decades, the total amount used to provide heating, hot water, and light and power in the home has continued to rise. Yet, although most energy conservation and energy efficiency measures pay for themselves within a few years in terms of smaller fuel bills, their rate of take-up falls far short of what could be wished as a response to a policy on conserving fossil fuels for future generations and the ecological imperative of dramatically curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Continue reading

4: Pedestrians crossing roads on sleeping policemen

Rather than the vehicle being uninterrupted at each road intersection, what is required is an uninterrupted pedestrian network consisting of linked pavements. To achieve this, two elements of the traffic engineer’s bag of tricks can be integrated – the pedestrian crossing and the road hump (sleeping policeman). Pedestrians then walk across broad-topped humps which are the width of conventional crossings, and are paved and at the same level as the pavement. Likewise, the full ‘square’ of road intersections is raised and paved at pavement level. The effect of this is to create the continuous pedestrian network. Continue reading

3: Whistling in the (greenhouse gas) light

The UK government has now given way to pressure from other member states of the European Community on action to resolve perhaps the most awesome problem ever posed for mankind – the natural limits on greenhouse gas emissions that the earth can support. Continue reading

2: Cycling – more life years gained from fitness than lost from injury

It has been obvious for many years that the policies of many governments and related institutions, including the medical establishment, have failed to reflect the major role that cycling could play in meeting their objectives. Its scope is so considerable as to strongly indicate that it should be given pride of place in the mechanised transport hierarchy, that is, going well beyond simply treating it as a mode of transport deserving some consideration in the allocation of public resources. Continue reading