Sunday, March 12, 2006

Smokocar ?

I’m sure this must seem both evangelical and absurd but in many respects drivers are the smokers of the 21st century. They occupy an extraordinarily protected and expensive place in society. Just as smokers of the early 20th century were allowed to light up where and when they wanted, so drivers are allowed to drive wherever and whenever they wish. Roads are in many respects both metaphorically and sometimes literally the ashtrays of our age.
The fact of the matter is that driving is a health hazard for those driving and those around them. This can be illustrated in terms the levels of activity associated with driving, the amount of activity that is subverted by roads-unreasonable driving and the effects on the environment. Please don’t try and convince me that vehicle emissions are somehow unlike passive smoking. There is a clear and indisputable health precedent for the reduction of vehicle use (some would argue there is quite a compelling economic one as well). This is a key battleground for health in the coming century. In the post war developed world the same precedent was established with respect to smoking. Replace the phrase “big tobacco” with “big motor” and you have a grasp of how some people feel about the issue. Taking bikes off roads is the same, as saying non-smokers can’t stand in a room where someone is smoking. Indeed the issue should be reversed, just like smokers; motorists should be forced to occupy a decreasing space in society. Actions like this can and should be driven by the knowledge that it will benefit the health of everyone involved.

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