The national organization for road works in the Netherlands, RWS, has a slogan: from A to Better.
It has not brought us much so far: The roads are widened, more traffic lanes , so now we are not in a two lane traffic jam but in a 5 lane traffic jam. The roads are beautiful, but the effect is 0 .
The question therefor is not from A to Better, but from A to Best, and then how to define Best? Which is not a road orientated question , but a traffic related question. Why should we travel more , and more often, and faster? What is the sense in that? And if there is any reason ( and for whom) , then how to weigh these advantageous against disadvantages like climate change and resource depletion? Which will hit us all, also those that don’t use these roads, or rarely. The advantage of having 5 lane traffic jams in any case is 0 or even negative.
Speed, if we drive, provides individual profits, however collective losses. The call for more collective and social solutions in society, also applies for traffic and transport. Someone can make 4 appointments a day using a car, which gives him personally a profit , but not directly society. Which has only the disadvantages: more traffic nuisance, ( in noise, landscape destruction, fine dust, and which go far beyond the road itself) . Not to speak of climate change due to CO2 emissions en resource depletion. All which in turn require collective tax money to raise dikes, save polders below sea level, retrofit buildings for ZEB, building wind energy-parks, fight fine dust consequences in hospitals, etc. Collectively we loose, in welfare, wellbeing and money, to give way for individual interests , for instance to make more appointments a day.
And how are we dealing with that? If roads get too busy, politicians shout: “mobility is a right” , and the ministry starts building new roads. If this results in smog or fine-dust, they are calling for “technology development” and subsidizes catalysts for cars and other technologies. When people are complaining about the noise, the government demands “ silent asphalt” from the civil engineers. And if the environmentalists demand measures against climate change, the government sets up a new program for “ cleaner production” , and wants to capture and store CO2 underground. Technology after technology, to sweep the dust under the carpet, but no single measure to tackle the problem at the roots. We have lost track, of reality that is.
Moreover, how can a road be circular -the latest policy hype- if the function it provides is only to support more traffic, and faster burning of fossil fuels? And more and faster spread all kinds of luxury ‘consumer’ goods from web-shops?
Yeah yeah, the electric car is coming. I know. If all goes well, traffic noise will be reduced, as well as finedust. But on the other side this will cause problems again: All cars will have to be replaced , increasing material depletion, and a whole new infrastructure has to be put in place, with all kinds of resource effects again. And not to forget, to keep them driving we will need wind-turbine parks and fields with solar panels . And will traffic jams be solved then? Or will roads be circular then? Not so. Its an interesting business model, but does not solve anything really.
Its time to dive deeper and find out how get from A to B, how to (re-) organize that. Not from A to Better, but from A to Best. Of even beyond that: to avoid that we have to go from A to B: From A to Nowhere. Since the actual quest is to go from 10 ton CO2 per capita per year emitted, to 1 ton per capita. And not only emissions from energy, but including materials related emissions as well.
Which require that we reduce our speed… Of living, of consumption, of growth, of depleting resources, from everything in fact, and therefore also from transport. We only push ourselves to the limit, and over, put the burden to others, and get backfired when it comes to climate and resources.
‘Best’ therefor, would be not-driving or less driving, and slower, to start with. Maximum 80 km on main roads. Which reduces the energy demand nearly by half compared to 130 ( for same distance) for e-cars as well. And as a result the need for building wind-turbine parks will be halved. Besides, at 80 an hour, the road has the maximum capacity and flow, and will we have eliminated annoying speed differences with trucks. The senior people already have discovered this, driving a camper and barely hit 80. ( in speed I mean…) .
It forces us to find other options, to avoid transport. The ultimate freedom: I don’t need to go anywhere”. Or to give other options a chance: Make the 5 lane road a two lane road again, and give the other three lanes to speed bikes , 10 rows thick if necessary. From A to Otherwise, in fact.
Also on local level roads , in neighborhoods, a lot of improvements can be made: Why should all local roads be two way traffic? These districts can easily be unlocked by one way roads only, with slow driving like you do on a camping site…. And when we are talking circular: with one way roads, half of all the roads can be removed, with many advantages: less maintenance from roads, a lot of secondary materials for recycling purposes, the extra free land can be used for productive purposes: water purification, vegetable growing- urban farming, Solar panels, better water retention, playing ground for kids, fats biking lanes, and so on….
I myself am a fast walker, and many times I think: move on, move on. But in my time at the University I realized: I am walking faster as the students… That’s strange, I am in fact walking faster as the future…. Which makes no sense…. Therefor: slow down, with everything, starting with driving…