A national park just for cars

Let them come in their hot machines and sit together in jams admiring the scenery
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The Independent Travel
I do sometimes wonder why we bothered to set up national parks at all. If it had never been decreed that the Lake District and the Peak District were to be ecologically separate from the rest of the country, then mass tourism would never have found them.

All right, so the Lakes might have had ribbon development and nuclear power stations but at least they wouldn't have had lines of traffic pointing towards them and invading them every weekend in summer.

The fact that the North Yorkshire Moors have just decided to counter the invasion of the motor car by laying on free bus services within the park is a tiny step towards rectifying this situation, perhaps related to New Labour's rumblings about improving public transport and increasing the cost of motoring.

Personally I don't think this is anywhere far enough. As reported on the front page of this section, the outlook for British cyclists is indeed improving, but I can't think of any reason why people have to drive cars at all. By all means let them own their cars. I'm not in favour of banning things. But why should people be allowed to drive them on the roads? We do not normally expect to be allowed to light bonfires, release hazardous gases and fling around dangerously heavy pieces of hot metal in public places. People aren't allowed to drive on beaches or pavements or public squares - why should they drive on roads? There should instead be allocated places where people pay to drive their cars for fun. This does not have to be confined to a race-track. I would willingly sacrifice one entire national park to car lovers from all over the country. Let them come in their hot, heavy machines and sit together in their jams admiring the scenery - and each other - as they do so.

The advantages of losing cars from public places have been widely discussed. But can you really imagine it? A few arterial roads would be retained for essential vehicles such as buses, ambulances and freight lorries. But residential areas of cities would be linked not by depressingly black, dog-befouled tarmac, but by canals or green grassy lanes and meadows crossed by tram-lines. They would still be spacious enough to sustain the odd emergency vehicle.

The huge sums of money currently spent on road-building and maintenance would be spent on horticultural projects, such as how to prevent grassy roads turning into mud when it rained and how to keep geraniums in flower during the British winter.

Virtuous citizens such as Mr Roy Vaughan of Buckland village in the Cotswolds would become heroes of our time (Mr Vaughan is the gentleman recently reported in the press who for years has been irritating his neighbours by tending every speck of grass in his entire village).

As for the whole economics of car production, this would be transferred to bicycles. Naturally we would not expect city millionaires to commute to work on their grandfathers' three-gear clonkers, and the science of bicycle production would explode to accommodate the new demand. Titanium frames and platinum handlebars could be manufactured for snobs. Expensive advertisements would linger on the seductive curves of the latest frames.

And cyclists would no longer be considered nerds. Attractive tailor-made bicycle clothing and helmets with Italian designer labels would be available, to enable cyclists to arrive at their destinations clean and cool. Blockbuster movies would reflect the new culture by depicting dramatic bicycle chases undertaken by heroes in cycling shorts.

The main obstacle to safe, pleasant cycling - that there are too many dangerous cars on the roads - would simply be gone. Everyone would feel far healthier and less inclined to committing acts of road rage. The life expectancy of hedgehogs would be dramatically improved. For long-distance journeys we would not hesitate to turn to the silent, smooth-running trains which will be far more comfortable than private cars could ever be.

As for Britain's national parks - half-hearted schemes to reduce traffic in them by providing free bus services would be recalled as part of a noisy, smoggy nightmare.

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