The shambles that is the British government’s policy on air pollution has taken a surreal twist as it transpires councils in England will be funded to tear up speed bumps on the basis they cause pollution as drivers accelerate between them. In a perfect example of political dis-jointed thinking, it seems likely that fewer traffic humps will increase vehicle speed, thereby increasing the road danger that dissuades folk from walking and cycling.
The government has misinterpreted guidance from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, which says that “where physical speed reduction measures are used to reduce road danger and injuries, consider using them to encourage drivers to maintain a reduced, steady pace along the whole stretch of road, rather than road humps that may increase acceleration and braking-related emissions”.
A spokeswoman for NICE the BBC this week: “We don’t say anything about ripping up road humps and getting rid of them – we just want to promote smoother driving. Whenever we make a recommendation about considering any measures other than speed humps, the media reports it as us recommending getting rid of speed humps – which we are not.”
The speed hump debacle follows on from the news that the British government had bowed to legal pressure over its lack of progress on air pollution. The daft idea of removing traffic calming measures forms part of new plans spurred by the threat of legal action brought by a group of activist lawyers called Client Earth. Ministers have announced a ban on all new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040. However, in 23 years most cars will be electric or hybrid anyway.
Not only is the government’s pledge to eventually ban the cars that are powered solely by an internal combustion engine rather meaningless, the fact they have made it at all has been is down in large part to the legal action it has faced over the poor quality of our air. In fact. a judge had said its original plans to tackle air pollution were so poor as to be unlawful.
Air pollution poses a risk to public health that costs the country up to £2.7bn in lost productivity each year it contributes to the premature death of up to 40,000 people.
Plans announced this week include money to subsidise electric cars, low-emission taxis, the retrofitting of buses with clean air filters and £1.2bn for cycling and walking. However, many have recognised that the plans will not have the immediate effect that is so badly needed. Many have called for a nationwide implementation of London’s forthcoming ‘Toxic Charge’ of £10 per day on 10,000 of the oldest, most polluting vehicles entering the city.
Wouldn’t it have been easier with pay-as-you-go road pricing?
The short answer is yes and it’s something the ETA has been advocating for 20 years. If a previous government had had the political will and bravery to implement a road pricing scheme, our air would already be far less polluted, congestion on the roads would already have been eased and, arguably, more of us would already be driving electric cars.
Ethical insurance, however you travel
The ETA has been voted Britain’s most ethical insurance company 2017.
The Good Shopping Guide each year reveals the good, the bad, and the ugly of the world’s companies and brands, with a view to supporting the growth of social responsibility and ethical business as well as a more sustainable, just society.
Beating household-name insurance companies such as John Lewis and the Co-op, we earned an ethical company index score of 89 – earning us joint-first place with Naturesave.
The ETA was established in 1990 as an ethical provider of green, reliable travel services. Twenty seven years on, we continue to offer cycle insurance, travel insurance and breakdown cover while putting concern for the environment at the heart of all we do.