Monday, 26 October 2015

Carfree: Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of HM Opposition

There are many extra-ordinary things about Jeremy Corbyn, recently elected leader of Britain’s Labour Party, and hence, Leader of HM Opposition: his support for nuclear disarmament and opposition to renewing Trident, his failure to endorse ‘austerity-lite’, his campaign against the Iraq war, his election to the Labour leadership with 59% of the vote, his ranking as the MP with the lowest expenses claim (although somebody has to be at number 650 on that list), and his choice of attire. Almost as remarkable, and rather less remarked upon, is that he does not own a car (according to Wiki and the Financial Times). 

As the FT article notes,

“When not attending rallies, constituency meetings and picket lines, Corbyn likes to tend to his allotment, make jam, eat cheese and read about railways. He seldom drinks and does not own a car, preferring to cycle. He is also a keen photographer of manhole covers.” (apparently, as long as they were installed by public sector bodies).

What we do not know is whether this is because Jeremy Corbyn is a Rational Economic Man. Has Mr Corbyn applied the textbook nostra of the Standard Economic Model, carried out a cost-benefit analysis and decided that the downside of owning a car (cost, hassle, risk) outweighs the upside (convenience, some of the time). Does he just prefer to be on his bike or on foot? Perhaps he has he never learned to drive – it’s a useful life skill, as there are times when it’s hard to find an alternative to using a car. You just don’t have to own one. Is it because, as a man of the people, Mr Corbyn sees car ownership, life in a box on wheels, as insulating him from the rest of  humanity?  Or maybe it’s a refusal to be part of oil-fuelled corporate capitalism, with its oil dependency, resource wars and implications for foreign policy.

Whatever the answer, it’s hard to believe that there has been any other Leader of the Opposition since the Second World War who hasn’t owned a car. So is the carfree Mr Corbyn hopelessly out of touch? Or ahead of the curve? (picture: Wikipaedia)

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Question of the Week

Why is Carphone Warehouse still called Carphone Warehouse? Especially as the most avid Smartphone users (Generation Y) are about the least likely demographic to own a car these days. See this piece in The Guardian.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Lewes Road transport scheme wins another award for Brighton and Hove. But what about Valley Gardens?

Good to see that the Lewes Road scheme keeps collecting awards, the latest being the Excellence in Cycling and Walking category at the National Transport Awards. The Lewes Road scheme, which links Brighton city centre with destinations along Lewes Road, has provided better connectivity for cyclists and walkers, and also provides improvements to speed buses along the way. The £6.4 million project saw nearly three miles of dual carriageway changed into a single carriageway with a new bus lane, widened cycle lane, and revamped bus stops and traffic signals. All of which makes it much easier to travel between the centre of Brighton, the universities, the American Express Community Stadium and Stanmer Park, as well as residential areas.
What is amazing is the amount of fuss caused by such schemes when they are being planned and installed. Travelling (by bus) along the Lewes Road in the peaks last week, I’d observe that everything seems to be working pretty smoothly. It is hard to believe the brouhaha about the Lewes Road  scheme, which some seemed to think presaged the end of the world as we know it. But, as the endowment effect,inertia bias and the status quo bias from behavioural economics show, people hate to have things taken away from them – even when what replaces it is better.
Before: Lewes Road at the Vogue Gyratory - note cyclists

The Lewes Road scheme is one of a number of sustainable transport improvements around Brighton and Hove, which have included investing in better bus services, installing cycle contraflows and 20mph zones, as well as upgrading public spaces. These schemes, designed to change people’s transport behaviour by making it easier to take low-carbon options, have featured in a recent approving blog post by a staffer at the ClimateChange Committee. The post notes that, against a worrying national trend towards increasing carbon emissions from transport, developments in our city like the Lewes Road scheme and others,  

“make walking, cycling and taking the bus a much more attractive option. Car ownership in Brighton is currently the lowest in South East England, cycling to work doubled between 2001 and 2011, as did the number of bus journeys between 1993 and 2013.”

With the change in administration that took place in May 2015, and the switch to a Labour-controlled council, another long awaited scheme, for Valley Gardens, has been put on hold pending further work on traffic modelling. Let’s hope that this doesn’t mean that the long overdue improvements to the City’s main gateway, from St. Peter’s Church to the Palace Pier, has been kicked into the long grass, never to be seen again. Because if it has, it’s the worst possible news for pedestrians and cyclists, and anyone one else who believes that Valley Gardens deserves a better fate than being a congested and fume-laded traffic corridor, a river of vehicles which currently divides our city.