Myth: “Essential motor vehicles”

We often hear people (especially local politicians) using this term as a way of resisting change; the implication being that other means of transport are not essential and must be treated with lower priority. It is often accompanied by some mutterings about “getting the right balance”. Of course, some uses of motor vehicles can be considered essential, but only a small proportion of journeys really need to be taken using a private motor vehicle.

A narrow residential street with a local primary school on the right hand side. The street is full of cars being driven and parked, with some people driving their cars on the footway outside the school gates to squeeze past others.
Finishing time at a local primary school – essential journeys, yes, but not essential motor vehicles.

In Transport for Greater Manchester’s 2020 travel diary survey it was found that over 60% of car and van journeys in Bolton Borough were less than 5km, and a third of car and van journeys were less than 2km. That is an awful lot of journeys taken by car or van that probably do not need to be. In countries with a more civilized road culture, most of these short journeys would be walked or cycled. Even if things and/or children need to be carried, cargo bike are frequently used.

There is no choice than to reduce the use of private motor vehicles if we are going to address the problems of climate change, poor air quality, noise, inactivity and poor health outcomes, social division and a host of other issues. The only way to achieve that is to reallocate some (not all) road space from motor vehicles to essential walking and cycling.

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