Walk it or bus it, but don't take the car

As government launches month-long 'Don't Choke Britain' campaign, the 'Independent' salutes those noted for cycling to work
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The Independent Online
Commuters are being asked to leave their cars at home for a day a week in June as part of a nationwide "Don't Choke Britain" campaign launched yesterday by Sir George Young, the Secretary of State for Transport.

Mike Parker, director general of the Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive, one of 140 organisations taking part, said the aim was to get regular commuters to think about how they get to work: "Even if they just take a bus one day every week, or even travel at a different time of the day, it could make a difference," he said.

As part of its contribution, Tyne and Wear has managed to persuade bus operators in its area to charge just 20p for any journey on 30 June, in an effort to get people to sample public transport which "many people may never have used".

Other supporters of the month-long campaign include the AA, the transport unions, British Rail and the coach and bus operators,

Several towns are running "car-free" days. In Leeds, for example, people will be able to use the local travelcard scheme all day, rather than only at off-peak times, enabling travel throughout the area for only pounds 2 20.

Richard Armitage, a transport consultant who is working with Leeds City Council, said that he hoped that firms would take up some of the ideas being promoted by the campaign. He cited a solicitor's firm in Leeds, Booth and Co, which has a detailed transport policy designed to ensure that the car is the last resort for its staff: "Employees, even the senior partners, are told, for example, that if they are going to a conference they have to share a car or go by train as otherwise they will not be reimbursed."

Other events during the month include National Bike Week, which starts tomorrow; bike-To-work day on Wednesday; and a national walk-to-school week from 10-14 June. Much of the recent increase in car use, particularly in the mornings, is a result of parents taking children to schools because of fear of traffic or attack.

Sir George Young, who walked to the launch in Charing Cross yesterday morning, said: "I try to consider how I should travel, and I used my bicycle yesterday but sometimes it's tempting just to drive."

Sir George, in a rare show of unity with local authorities which are now almost all Labour-controlled, said he welcomed the campaign because "it is through campaigns such as this that we will increase people's awareness of the transport choices they are making".

However, there was criticism of the campaign from the RAC whose campaigns manager, Edmund King, said: "One car-free day will do nothing to reduce society's dependence on the car. We need actual policies that look at the 20 per cent of journeys that possibly do not have to be made by car."