Category Archives: Cycling

There are plenty of brilliant plans for getting us moving without trashing the planet

George Monbiot asks: “So why aren’t they happening?”

In the Guardian he described and denounced the current inefficient and polluting transport system.


“If you controlled the billions that are spent every year, privately and publicly, on the transport system, and your aim was to smooth the passage of those who use it, is this what you would do? Only if your imagination had been surgically excised.

“Even in a small, economically mature, densely-populated nation like this one, where change is easy, we’re still driving in the wrong direction.

“The simplest, cheapest and healthiest solution to congestion is blocked by the failure to provide safe transit. Last year the transport department crowed that it could cut £23m from its budget, as a result of an “underspend on the Cycle Cities Ambition budget”. Instead of handing this money back to the Treasury, it should have discovered why it wasn’t spent and ensured that it doesn’t happen again”.

So here’s a novel idea: how about a 21st Century transport system for the 21st Century? Here is a summary of the excellent constructive advice he gave:

  • aggregate people’s requests via a smartphone app,
  • use minibus services to collect people from their homes and deliver them close to their destinations while minimising their routes.
  • build a network of such safe, pleasant and convenient walking and cycling paths (like those in Hamburg) that no one with the ability to do otherwise set a date by which no new car is manufactured unless it’s electric,
  • set up household charging points, allowing people to plug in without having to take their car off the road,
  • introduce a scrappage payment to replace old cars with no car at all: it would take the form of public transport tokens,
  • facilitate ‘walking buses’ to school: parents take turns to lead a crocodile of children,
  • organise local drop-off points, so that parcel companies don’t clog our streets, and we never miss deliveries,
  • provide bikes to hire at train and bus stations,   synchronising bus and train timetables,
  • reopen old rail lines which were closed in the mistaken belief that train travel was on the way out and build new lines to bridge the gaps,
  • bring train services under public control and use the money now spent on road building to make tickets affordable for everyone,
  • implement the brilliant plan proposed by Dr Alan Storkey: for an intercity bus network faster and more convenient than car travel, using dedicated lanes on the motorways and interchanges at the motorway junctions and
  • build new settlements around public transport hubs – light rail, tram and electric bus systems – rather than around the car.
  • (Ed: place more bulky freight on our waterways.

What is difficult about any of this? What technological barriers stand in the way? None. Transport is among the simplest of our problems to solve.





Corbyn’s environment and energy plan

Corbyn has launched an environmental manifesto that outlines his plans for the UK to achieve 65% of energy from renewable sources by 2030 – without fracking.

corbyn-eee-manifestoHe undertakes to use the precautionary principle to protect the environment and people from harm – not a pay-to-pollute approach allowing the richest corporations and individuals to wreck our planet.

Jeremy Corbyn plans to put cities, councils, devolved governments and communities at the heart of an efficient decentralised energy system with:  

  • a shift to largely renewably generated electricity and hydrogen powered buses and cars;
  • a network of low-emission zones;
  • cycling on safe cycle lanes and hire schemes in every town and city;
  • more nature corridors created to connect protected nature sites, providing pathways for wildlife such as bats and butterflies and
  • a ban on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides which harm pollinating insects including bees and encourage bee-friendly plants in our parks, urban spaces and countryside.

Jeremy Corbyn also encourages the British public to take action as individuals to help to meet the Paris climate agreement.

A “publicly run, locally accountable energy system”.

He has promised to promote over a thousand local energy companies in the next parliament and legislate to give community energy co-operatives the right to sell energy directly to the communities they serve.

Launching the report in Nottingham, the Labour leader said, “We want Britain to be the world’s leading producer of renewable technology. To achieve this, we will accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy, and drive the expansion of the green industries and jobs of the future, using our National Investment Bank to invest in public and community-owned renewable energy. This will deliver clean energy and curb energy bill rises for households; an energy policy for the 60 million, not the Big 6 energy companies.”

It would launch a National Home Insulation plan to insulate at least 4 million homes and phase out coal-fired power by 2025. The Labour leader estimates over 300,000 jobs would be created in the renewables sector as a result of these measures.


At the event in Nottingham, Jeremy Corbyn said that Labour would reinstate the department for energy and climate change in its first month of government, as part of its plan to rebuild and transform Britain, “so that no-one and no community is left behind”.




Air pollution addressed by NGOs, Mayor, University, Met Office, EU & WHO


NOX emissions ukAround 29,000 people die prematurely each year in the UK because of air pollution, according to Public Health England. The New York Times reported the World Health Organisation’s finding that exposure to fine airborne particles is estimated to have contributed to illness, including cardiovascular disease and lung cancer leading to 3.2 million premature deaths worldwide. In Western cities the causes include road transport, domestic and commercial heating systems and industry. The Supreme Court has ordered the UK government to make plans for tackling air pollution, which is linked to thousands of premature deaths each year. It is reported that London and several other British cities have failed to meet EU standards on nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels since 2010, though they have fallen since the 1970s.

Movement for change

BFOE warehouseIn 2011, Birmingham council’s air quality action plan stressed the problem of nitrogen dioxide [NO2], mainly from road vehicles, highlighting a study concluding that long term exposure causes lung scarring & emphysema. For many years Birmingham FOE campaigners have said that more walking and cycling can provide a large part of the solution. Their Let’s Get Moving campaign calls on the council to invest £10 per person per year in cycling for the next 10 years to bring the city up to standard. The writer adds that there should be well-maintained, segregated cycle paths sees reference to showers as a delaying tactic; the appropriately dressed urban cyclist is cool in summer and pleasantly warm in winter.

boris santander bikeThe Mayor of London Boris Johnson, who introduced the city wide cycle scheme, now with mobile apps, called for a diesel scrappage scheme to tackle air pollution last year after researchers said Oxford Street had the highest NO2 concentrations in the world. The French government is to introduce a “super bonus” of up to €10,000 (£7,470), helping drivers to replace old diesel vehicles with a plug-in hybrid or electric model.

Thanks to the Met Office’s new forecasting system, introduced last year, the public is now being informed of serious air pollution episodes in advance. Dr Ian Mudway, lecturer in respiratory toxicology at King’s College London, noted that before this system came into force, when the air pollution maps turned red, “The BBC ran stories about the pollution in Paris and Milan, but no one thought it worthwhile to inform the British public that they were being exposed to dangerous levels of fine particulates”.

ross barlow city backgroundThe Universities Alliance reports that Coventry University spin-out company Microcab Ltd uses a new technology, combining hydrogen from the pump with oxygen from the air to create electricity to drive the electric motors in a fleet of zero emissions lightweight vehicles launched in 2012. Its fuel cell, the H2EV, can be refilled with hydrogen in minutes to run for 100 miles before needing a top up. The CBOA advocates a reduction in costs, road congestion and air pollution by removing heavy freight from lorries to barges where there are suitable routes – and Professor Harris’ Protium project goes further, environmentally speaking, having designed a prototype hydrogen-fuelled barge (above left).

Good work in generating clean power is being done by:

Electric Eigg (

Dundee University (

Sustainable Energy For All (

Scottish Renewables (

Further steps forward may well come from the World Health Organization, whose International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has convened an Advisory Group of epidemiologists, toxicologists, atmospheric scientists, cancer biologists and regulators to make recommendations for the development of a series of Monographs on air pollution.