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Some pedestrians are getting tired of waiting ... Photo:  Samu Lang via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).
Some pedestrians are getting tired of waiting ... Photo: Samu Lang via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).
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Can't drive? Won't drive? Want to drive less?

Chris Church

15th October 2015

Fewer than half the UK's inhabitants even have a driving licence, writes Chris Church. So how come the UK's transport policies are all about meeting the needs of drivers? After all, even drivers are pedestrians the moment they step out of their cars. Now a new campaign group is forming to give a voice to non-drivers - and demand a better deal.

We range from cool young urbanites through hard-core green activists to elderly people no longer able to drive, people left car-less because their partner has driven off to work and people on low incomes who can't afford a car.

There are some 64.1 million people in the UK. Less than half of them, 31.9 million, have a driving licence.

Many are too young - there are around 14 million children and young people. But there are 18 million adults who simply don't drive.

There are many reasons - they may not be able to afford the cost, they feel unsafe, they may have health issues that limit their ability to drive, or they are simply not interested in driving.

All these are people who need to use other modes of transport - walking, public transport, cycling, and many use a combination of different forms of transport to access the places and services they use.

But it's easy to see how far most transport policy and planning sees those who don't drive as less important second class citizens.

As public transport in many parts of the UK struggles, so new road programmes are announced and funded - even though average mileage for four-wheeled vehicles has fallen in recent years. While new roads are planned, funding cuts mean that pavement and footway maintenance is getting steadily worse.

Government us running scared of car owners

Professor David Begg, chairman of the Commission for Integrated Transport, an independent body that advised the previous government, speaking shortly before it was abolished, accused the government of running scared of car-owning voters by building more roads to ease congestion:

"It doesn't grapple with the core of the problem. It's a bit like a heroin addict's last fix. It will feel good at the time, but it's not sustainable. They are nervous about being accused of being anti-car.

"There are an awful lot of companies and people in this country make their living out of cars, manufacturing cars or supplying the car industry. At some point you have to lead, because if it's just down to focus groups, why do we have politicians?"

Transport policy remains massively influenced by the motoring industry and the roads lobby. That needs to change. That's what has led to plans for a new organisation that will put non-drivers at its' heart.

'We Don't Drive' (a working title) aims to speak up for those who don't drive, and for those who do drive, but would like better choices so that they can cut their driving, and think that pedestrians deserve a better deal.

Interested? Come to our meeting in London tomorrow

Non-drivers are a hugely varied 'community of interest' with that one simple thing in common - they don't drive and use other means of transport.

We range from cool young urbanites through hard-core green activists to elderly people who no longer feel confident to drive, people left car-less because their partner has driven off to work and people on low incomes stuck in remote rural areas who can't afford a car.

In the middle there's a whole bunch of people who simply don't want to drive. And outside all that there are millions who would like to drive less, but don't see how they can. Or who sometimes drive, but identify themselves primarily as pedestrians, cyclists or public transport users.

Can these groups really find a common interest? That's one of the challenges for the first national workshop tomorrow, Friday 16th October, at Corams Fields Centre in central London.

 


 

Workshop: We Don't Drive's inaugural workshop takes place from 11am - 4pm tomorrow, Friday 16th October, at the Corams Fields Centre in central London near Russell Square Underground. There are a few places still open. For an invitation email us at cea@poptel.org.uk.

Get involved: 'We Don't Drive' on Facebook.

Chris Church is director of CEA (Community Environment Associates), an associate of the Community Development Foundation, and chair of Climate Action England, a grassroots network. He is leading the development of We Don't Drive. In the 1980s he played a central role in the successful campaign to stop the M40 motorway being built across Otmoor in Oxfordshire.

 

 

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