Letter: Counting the cost of Britain's growing 'kar kulture'

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your otherwise excellent leading article 'K is for kar kulture' (1 August) is guilty of one major error and one large understatement. 'Dramatic progress' is not, alas, being made in reducing vehicle emissions. Official figures show that from 1980 to 1990 all kinds of pollutants inexorably increased, from carbon monoxide (up 46 per cent), through nitrogen oxides (up 72 per cent), to black smoke (up 75 per cent).

You may, of course, have had in mind the impending impact of catalytic converters, but years of experience from the United States shows that the gains from these are lost if traffic is allowed to go on increasing. Department of Transport forecasts of 140 per cent growth over the next 30 years therefore offer little grounds for optimism.

Your understatement was a failure to emphasise how short most journeys actually are. Three-quarters of personal trips are five miles and under, 40 per cent of car journeys are two miles or less. In the circumstances, the cycle lobby feels that a large-scale modal transfer from cars to bicycles is not only desirable, as you state, but perfectly feasible, if only the Government would adopt continental-style measures to encourage safe and sensible cycle use.

Earlier this year the Cyclists' Touring Club published Bikes, Not Fumes. This showed that, taking such short journeys into consideration, a five-fold increase in cycling in Britain was eminently practicable, and an eventual 10- fold rise possible, given favourable conditions. The report also calculated by how much pollution would fall, at given levels of cycle increase. Cycling is clean, popular, healthy and cheap. What is officialdom waiting for?

Yours sincerely,


Policy Adviser

Cyclists' Touring Club

Godalming, Surrey

1 August