In this Speaker’s Corner contribution, Bruce Nixon argues that proposals for a multi-storey car park in Berkhamsted will do nothing to solve a pressing problem.
According to Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.
Creating a multi-storey car park in Berkhamsted will just make the situation worse.
It will be bring even more cars into the town, resulting in even more traffic jams, congestion and pollution. It will be a blot on the landscape.
Its construction will have considerable ecological impact. Pollution levels are already exceptionally high in the centre of the town. Small children in pushchairs are close to the level of car exhausts.
Air pollution causes nearly 30,000 early deaths a year in the UK and 1.3m globally. It is linked to heart and respiratory diseases, including asthma, and some cancers. Road traffic is the main source.
We need to kick our car habit and get onto our feet or our bikes. Human beings were designed to walk and run.
Sitting in cars, and at computers, is bad for our backs and one of the main causes of overweight and obesity, causing diabetes, heart disease and strokes. Being overweight damages our joints, too – and we are one of the fattest nations in the world after the USA.
Worse still, motor vehicle exhaust is a major cause of climate change. The evidence is that we face environmental disaster, yet we are doing very little about it.
Some scientists reckon that we now have 41 months before climate chaos becomes out of control and irreversible.
Motor cars are one of the biggest causes of deaths and severe injury. Every day five people are killed in the UK. World road deaths, currently around 1.4m annually, are predicted to reach 2.0m by 2020 and exceed deaths caused by war and other conflicts.
Hardly a week goes by without a road crash fatality or severe injury reported in the Gazette. Surely we want to do our utmost to protect our children from road crashes and encourage them to have healthy lives? The best way is by setting them an example. We also want them to be safe and that means safer streets and safe cycle lanes.
Surely a better way to spend £3million available for the car park would be to use it to encourage people to get out of their cars, walk or cycle – electric cycles are now available – share cars to work, create proper cycle lanes, extended 20mph speed limits, round town buses for commuters, shoppers, school children and people living in the outer reaches of our towns.
We need electric car hire schemes, widely used in USA and proposed for London.
We have to demand progressive action from our local authorities. In Hemel Hempstead there is already a scheme for getting people from the station to the Maylands industrial area with battery re-charging points for electric bicycles. If we make the alternatives to driving attractive enough, people will use them.
Other towns and cities all over the world are doing it. Why can’t we?
Transition Town Berkhamsted is hosting a talk at Ashlyns School on Wednesday, October 16 by Professor Ian Roberts, author of The Energy Glut, which will explore some of these issues. Visit transitionberkhamsted.org.uk for more.
Bruce Nixon writes and gives talks on the environmental and economic crisis. Find out more at www.brucenixon.com