Movement for Liveable London Street Talks - Rachel Aldred 5th February 2013


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Street Talks with Rachel Aldred – The Case Against the Car
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  • Source: JF Wall, 1984, DfT
  • Movement for Liveable London Street Talks - Rachel Aldred 5th February 2013

    2. 2. Content2  The transition to the car  Meanings of the car  What are mass motorised societies like?  Inequalities  Violence  Enclosure  Privilege  Futures beyond the car?
    3. 3. How I got here3
    4. 4. How we got here Billion passenger km, cars, UK800700600500400 – In 1950, under 2 million private cars were licensed in Britain - 1 per 20 people300 – By 1970 it was nearly 10 million - 1 per 5 people200 – By 2002 it was almost 25 million - getting on for 1 per 2 people100 0 4
    5. 5. Pre-war commuting5 From the1890s-1930s walking to work was the most common experience. In the early twentieth century, distances to work remained relatively short in towns below 100,000 people. There, in the twenty-year period before World War Two around two-thirds of people walked or cycled to work. In London, by 1900, most people already used public transport. Pooley, C. and Turnbull, J. (2000) Modal choice and modal change: the journey to work in Britain since 1890, Journal of Transport Geography, 8, 11-24
    6. 6. Commuting today6 Over the past hundred years, commuting distances have quadrupled In the 1890s, the mean commuting distance was 2.5 miles, 100 years later it was 10 miles (NB: this overestimates the ―average commute‖) Over the same period the mean commuting time has only doubled, this has stabilised since the 1940s Two-thirds of all commuting trips are by car ―In general...women have tended to use both slower and more communal forms of transport (buses, trams) than men who have had access to faster and more individualised means of commuting (cycling, cars).‖ (Pooley et al, 2005, p.117)
    7. 7. The car as system7  John Urry: the car system marks a break from previous mass transport modes -  It is a complex system that becomes part of people‘s everyday lives; we can‘t opt out of it  It frees people from a ―public timetable‖ and from passengering  It allows them to become modern, mobile individuals – and to travel much further on a daily basis than before  Yet it also alienates them from their environment in distinctive ways  Environments (and cultures) are rebuilt around the car and the assumption of car access
    8. 8. Meanings of the car8  Society  Modernity  Consumerism  Individualism  Democracy…  People  Symbolising in/equality, hierarchy etc.  But also e.g. transitions, adulthood…
    9. 9. 9
    10. 10. Early 60s vision: ‗A Central London block‘, p.178, Traffic in Towns
    11. 11. The car/roads as symbolising (new)society11  For Transport Minister Boyd-Carpenter in 1955, motorways had to be free at the point of use because…  ―the motorways would act as potent symbols of the Conservative government‘s commitment to the modernisation of Britain […] the correct message would be conveyed of a government prepared to service the needs of a consumer boom‖ (Dudley & Richardson 2000: 73)  ‗Only when road building as a policy was connected to the policy idea of popular consumerism did the programme really take off politically.‘ (Dudley and Richardson 2000: 110)  i.e. not road building as economic/political interests alone – and it depended on popular consumerist values as well as personal mobility values  Left the roads lobby vulnerable in the 1970s and in the 1990s
    12. 12. New People: Free and Mobile and12 Airy “What I like […] about motoring is the sense that it gives one of lighting accidentally, like a voyager who touches another planet with the tip of his toe, upon scenes which would have gone on, have always gone on, will go on, unrecorded, save for this chance glimpse.” … “Soon we shall look back at our pre-motor days as we do now at our days in the caves” …“the motor is turning out the joy of our lives, an additional life, free & mobile & airy alongside our usual stationary industry.”  Virginia Woolf, 1927
    13. 13. Power and mobility13  Paul Virilio - the industrial revolution installed speed as the key social principle  E.g. production lines  E.g. faster obsolescence  E.g. computer-aided trading  In this system, according to Virilio, people can‘t afford not to be mobile e.g. following jobs  The faster and more powerful push the slower, less powerful out of the way  And are able to not move when they don‘t want to…
    14. 14. 14 Average distance travelled by mode and household income: Great Britain, 2011 Walk / bicycle Car/van Local and non-local buses Rail Other 12,000 536 10,000 1,218 233Miles per person per year 8,000 570 256 394 552 6,000 374 351 267 8,289 4,000 403 333 6,723 487 5,468 5,397 2,000 3,727 2,722 0 Lowest real Second level Third level Fourth level Highest real All income income level income level levels
    15. 15. The car as a positional good15 Cars are ‗like castles or villas by the sea: luxury goods invented for the exclusive pleasure of a very rich minority, and which in conception and nature were never intended for the people. Unlike the vacuum cleaner, the radio, or the bicycle, which retain their use value when everyone has one, the car, like a villa by the sea, is only desirable and useful insofar as the masses dont have one. That is how in both conception and original purpose the car is a luxury good...‘ Andre Gorz, Social Ideology of the Motor-Car, available at misc/gorz.html
    16. 16. Chained and Stuck and16 Concrete
    17. 17. Gorz – mass car ownership destroys thecity, creating the need for escape then satisfiedby the car …17
    18. 18. And on a global scale…18 Country Name 2009 Iceland 644 New Zealand 603 Italy 596 Germany 510 Spain 478 Sweden 462 United Kingdom 460 United States 439 Kuwait 412 Denmark 380 Hungary 301 Russian Federation 233 Mexico 191 World 125 Singapore 121 Turkey 95 Algeria 74 Indonesia 45 China 34 Kenya 13 India Cars per 1,000 people, selected countries: World 12 Bangladesh Bank; 2
    19. 19. UK household car ownership19Source: Transport Trends, available at
    20. 20. 20 Household car availability by household income quintile: Great Britain, 1995/97 and 2010 No car/van One car/van Two or more cars/vans 100 4 8 12 90 17 26 30 39 35 80 49 47 53 70 45 40 60 45 Percentage 50 53 40 47 49 66 41 30 44 38 47 49 20 38 10 20 18 12 12 9 7 0 Lowest Second Third Fourth Highest Lowest Second Third Fourth Highest real level level level real real level level level real income income income income level level level level 1995/97 2010
    21. 21. 21
    22. 22. The car as a positional good (2)22 ‗[T]he car, like a villa by the sea, is only desirable and useful insofar as the masses dont have one. That is how in both conception and original purpose the car is a luxury good. And the essence of luxury is that it cannot be democratised. If everyone can have luxury, no one gets any advantages from it. On the contrary, everyone diddles, cheats, and frustrates everyone else, and is diddled, cheated, and frustrated in return.‘ e.g. rat running Andre Gorz, as before Enclosure of public space – but still
    23. 23. Mr. Walker and Mr. Wheeler23
    24. 24. The mind of the driver24  Böhm et al – individualist AND systemic nature of automobility  Attitudes to other drivers, invisibility of / hostility to support systems  Externalisation – congestion experienced as imposed, yet is imposed on others; danger imposed on others  Need for regulation / generates demand to be exempt  Consequences for political debate (& the economy)  e.g. GMTIF, green streets vs parking  Generates tension in right wing thinking on car
    25. 25. Selling care: privatised families25
    26. 26. Selling care #226
    27. 27. Gender and car access27
    28. 28. Selling independence:28 danger and rebellion 1987 – Changes (Volkswagen Golf) c.f. Paul Gilroy‘s article in Car
    29. 29. Normalisation: privilege and29 in/visibility  Drivers as the ‗unmarked category‘  c.f. other dimensions of inequality  Unmarked categories & Others (who must adjust)  Becomes prominent when needed  The ‗hard pressed driver‘  But most of the time is an assumption  E.g. ‗parking‘  Cars also shift between privileged and invisible  E.g. advertising/heritage
    30. 30. Still cathedrals of our time?30  ‗I think that cars today are almost the exact equivalent of the great Gothic cathedrals: I mean the supreme creation of an era, conceived with passion by unknown artists, and consumed in image if not in usage by a whole population which appropriates them as a purely magical object.‘ (Barthes, 1957)
    31. 31. The car and social theory31 ‗strangely the car is rarely discussed in the ‗globalisation literature‘, although its specific character of domination is more systemic and awesome in its consequences than what are normally viewed as constitutive technologies of the global, such as the cinema, television and especially the computer‘ Urry, J. (2006) ‗The System of Automobility‘ Theory, Culture & Society 21 (4- (Urry 2006: 25) 5), pp. 25-39.
    32. 32. 32
    33. 33. 33
    34. 34. 34 From TfL‘s Traffic Modelling Guide v3
    35. 35. Inequalities #1: Who are the35 Others?  People with lower incomes have lower access to transport and lower levels of mobility  And are disproportionately harmed by others‘ mobility  through infrastructure (e.g. road-building)  traffic harms (air pollution, injuries, etc.)  TfLs Deprivation and Road Safety report found that pedestrians are three times more likely to be injured due to a road collision if they are from one of the most deprived areas of London, compared to those who come from the least deprived/more affluent areas  Source: Deprivation and Road Safety in London, TfL 2008
    36. 36. Constrained choices: infrastructure &culture36
    37. 37. Daniel Duckfield arrest:
    38. 38. Not ‗ideal pedestrians‘? #138  Older people are less likely to fit the ‗normal pedestrian‘ image imposed by motorisation – e.g. slower walking speeds, poor vision  They have low rates of car access, although this is rising  They are particularly affected by barriers to walking or cycling, e.g. poor condition of pavements, lack of subjectively safe cycle routes.  Nearly half of all pedestrians killed on the roads are over 60.  The casualty rate for pedestrians rises from 60 years old and doubles for those aged 80 plus. A collision that may not injure a young person may well injure an older person.
    39. 39. Not ‗ideal pedestrians‘? #239  Much work on how young people are affected by growing numbers of vehicles on the road  See ―One False Move‖; new PSI report on children‘s mobility  Like older people, young people don‘t fit the assumed ―normal pedestrian‖ figure (who walks quickly and always watches traffic)  They‘ve suffered a loss of independent mobility compared with the early post-war period when there were few motor vehicles on the road  This is aggravated by income inequalities  Leads to shrinking of ‗home space‘ – ‗I‘d drop litter in your street…‘ – see Putnam
    40. 40. The car as disabling40  Under the social model of disability, disabilities are seen as resulting from inequalities structured into the surrounding environment, disproportionately affecting people with specific impairments  E.g. failure to provide wheelchair access  Mass motorisation can be seen as disabling – it generates environments with which most people – as imperfect pedestrians (or cyclists) – cannot cope  E.g. pedestrian crossings that don‘t allow enough time for 15% of users  E.g. assumption that children must learn not to be children while outside (despite evidence that under 10s can‘t judge speed/distance above 20mph)  Freund and Martin on alertness  See Aldred & Woodcock ‗Transport: Challenging Disabling Environments‘, 2008, in Local Environment
    41. 41. 41
    42. 42. Do we hate children because they can‘tdrive?42
    43. 43. The car and violence43 The most well established environmental determinant of levels of violence is the scale of income differences between rich and poor. More unequal societies tend to be more violent. (Richard Wilkinson; co-author of The Spirit Level etc.) Car dominated societies fit into this picture of being violent and unequal; although in this case the violence has a different
    44. 44. Car nightmares44
    45. 45. 45
    46. 46. The victims:Invisible and At Risk46
    47. 47. 48
    48. 48. Learning to fear49  ‗Sewing Machine‘, 1973  A Minute Is Too Late
    49. 49. Selected References50  Steffen Böhm et al, eds. (2006) Against Automobility: Social Scientific Analyses of a Global Phenomenon (Sociological Review Monographs)  Bob Davis (1993) Death on the Streets: the mythology of road safety, Leading Edge Press  Kingsley Dennis and John Urry (2009) After the Car. Polity Press.  Peter Freund and George Martin (1996) The Ecology of the Automobile. Black Rose Books.  Tobias Kuhnimhof et al (2012): Men Shape a Downward Trend in Car Use among Young Adults—Evidence from Six Industrialized Countries, Transport Reviews, 32:6, 761-779  Matthew Paterson (2007) Automobile Politics: ecology and cultural political economy, CUP  Winfried Wolf (1996) Car Mania: a critical history of transport, Pluto