A major part of any Environmental Policy is the measuring of, and targets to reduce, the carbon footprint of the organisation and as motorised commuters represent a significant source of those carbon emissions, the travel plan is often used as a tool for helping to make those reductions.
So, as carbon emissions come from petrol and diesel powered vehicles, should we be focussing on encouraging commuters to switch to electric cars? I don’t think so.
Aside from the fact that the electricity has to come from somewhere and that ‘somewhere’ more often than not has a carbon footprint of its own, there are more reasons than just carbon reduction for encouraging drivers out of their cars.
Firstly, motorised vehicles are an inactive form of transport and inactivity is associated with a whole host of health problems including obesity and heart disease.
Secondly, cars are responsible for the deaths of around 3000 people every year, including other car users, cyclists and pedestrians.
Additionally, they contribute to the decline in local shops and the loss of community cohesion as people drive to out of town shopping centres or use their cars to take the children to school rather than walking with neighbours.
That’s not to mention that driving is stressful, expensive, time-consuming and road building is detrimental to the countryside and our physical environment.
My approach to travel planning is to offer people opportunities to get out of their cars and vans; to encourage the use of walking and cycling wherever possible and public transport when not. I’m not anti-car I’m pro-choice: I don’t think people should give up their cars altogether but I do think that they should consider when it is appropriate to use an alternative.
So no, I don’t dream of electric cars, I dream of a time when people make flexible choices; decide on the most suitable transport type for the next journey and only drive when they need to.
Dr Ian Murdey
Ian Murdey is the Transport Co-ordinator at DMU. He usually runs or cycles to work but will occasionally use the bus.