Archive Page 2

26
Aug
11

Cycles for a richer society

When it comes to promoting cycling Sweden ranks fourth best in the world. Is this something to be proud of? Maybe, but its not very ambitious. Fourth best might be OK. I mean we’re not the worst, yet.

The annoying thing is that the knowledge base needed to be the best or as good as the best exists in Sweden, both among some politicians and many planners. Examples of how the urban environment can be improved for both pedestrians and cyclists is close at hand in those countries that are better than us. Investments to promote walking and cycling are not expensive. They provide great value for money when compared with other infrastructure investments. The missing ingredient, the one that means that Sweden doesn’t quite achieve the same high standards as lets say Holland for cyclists is lack of political will. The right noises are made but not implemented.

The main difference between cycling policy in Sweden and the Netherlands is quite simple. In Sweden you can easily and safely cycle around the cities. In Holland urban planning in recent decades, has made the bicycle quite simply the easiest way to get around in cities. Although it is easy to get around by bike in Sweden the easiest way to get about is often by car. For some reason, people choose to travel by car more often than necessary probably just because it is so simple. In Holland city planners have worked actively for years to give cycling a comparative advantage.

Why is this important? Is not it enough with the attitude we have now? The answer is no. for several reasons, but here there is only place to name a few of them. Each journey by bike gives an economic gain to society. Where as every trip by car is subsidized, heavily subsidized if it occurs within an urban area. Congestion charging at the levels presently discussed hardly affects this. If we want people to use one mode of transport over another, subsidies are a policy tool that demonstrably work. Although its important to subsidize the modes that you want to promote. Climate change, poor urban air, noise and insecurity are all external costs that are wholly or partially incurred by car traffic in cities. It is through taking care of the car’s victims that society subsidizes cars.

Most of the problems facing cyclists in Sweden are caused by cars. Cars travelling at unacceptably high speeds in urban areas and cars parked on narrow streets. On urban streets where people live and go about there business, the maximum speed should never exceed 30 kilometres per hour. Today many of our streets are empty, so why reduce the speed on a deserted street? Simple, when the speed of the traffic is lower, people start using street spaces again.

There is a much livelier street life in Holland than there is in Sweden. The Dutch initiative where cyclists are given a comparative advantage over motorists have benefited everyone, including the small minority who do not cycle. Dutch cities are pleasanter places to be in. And because it’s pleasant, people spend more on the street. They’ve managed to put life back into the cities, which among other thing increases personal security. Dutch cycling policy has had a variety of positive social feedback.

This said Holland has not declared war on motorists. The number of cars per thousand inhabitants is only marginally lower in the Netherlands than in Sweden (457/475). The difference is that in Holland motorists are also cyclists. Dutch motorists take the bike in the city because it is the fastest and easiest way to travel. All places are still accessible by car if you have to unload something. But its not that simple. Cyclists and pedestrians have the space they need in Dutch cities, cars get the space that’s over, and not vice versa as in Sweden.

Fourth best is pretty good but not good enough.

Ian Fiddies
Friends of the Earth, Transport Committee

This is a translation of the original article first published in Swedish in Göteborgs Fria Tidning

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15
May
11

Västsvenska paketet är ett svekpaket

Jag vet inte vem jag ska rösta på i omvalet den 15 maj. Mitt problem är att jag är orolig för klimatförändringar. Lyssnar man på de olika partierna så är de grönare än gräset på andra sidan allihopa. Ser man på de planer som de stora partierna enas om, verkar alla partier vara lika svarta. Det hade på något sätt varit uppfriskande om ett av partierna hade gått till val under rubriken ”Det är viktigare att de som redan är rika tjänar mer pengar nu än att vi bevarar planeten för kommande generationer.” Men ärligheten i politiken verkar vara utrotningshotad.

Det som gör mig förbannad är det så kallade ”Västsvenska paket”, svekpaketen som jag föredrar att kalla det för. Svekpaketets tre huvudingredienser är: Västlänken, en tågtunnel under centrala Göteborg; Marieholmstunneln, den mycket omtalade Älvförbindelsen; samt trängselskatter.

Enligt Annelie Hultén:
Det Västsvenska paketet …ska bidra till att skapa en större arbetsmarknad och främja sysselsättning, tillväxt och minska trafikens negativa påverkan på miljön .” (Göteborgs stad, Årsredovisning 2010, s. 5)

Hon börjar rätt, folk kommer att tvingas pendla ännu längre sträckor om paketet genomförs. Paketet kommer att möjliggöra en ökad exploatering av tidigare ointressanta ytor för småhus, som är i för sig tillväxt och dessutom en sysselsättning. Men att påstå att paketet skulle ”minska trafikens negativa påverkan på miljön ” har jag mycket svårt att svälja.

Västlänken är den del av paketet som jag har en försiktigt positiv inställning till. Om vi ska kunna minska personbilismen måste kollektivtrafikens kapacitet utökas, men om man bara ökar kollektivtrafiken kapacitet kommer fler att resa oftare och längre vilket är negativt ur miljösynpunkt. En miljövinst får man endast om de nya kollektivresorna görs av någon som annars hade kört bil. Västlänken kunde ha en mycket positiv effekt på miljön om vägkapacitet i regionen samtidigt minskades.

Paketets andra ben, och det är här sveken kommer, är Marieholmstunneln. Den är en gammalmodig ”betongsosse”, vägkapacitetsökning av det absolut sämsta slaget, en stadsnära motorväg. Det är en försök att bygga bort trängsel med mer väg. Varje försök hittills, och jag menar varje, att bygga bort trängsel med mer väg har lett till en kraftig trafikökning och försämrad framkomlighet. Vist kan den möjliggöra en utökning av kollektivtrafiken, men till vilken miljönytta om personbilstrafiken också ökas? Vist är det bra om överviktiga människor börjar äta råa grönsaker men de kommer inte att gå ned i vikt om de samtidigt äter ännu mer skräpmat än tidigare.

Och slutligen den stora heta potatisen, trängselskatter. Trängselskatter skulle kunna användas för att ”minska trafikens negativa påverkan på miljön” men de kan lika gärna användas för att försämra läget, vilket är fallet här när de ska finansiera svekpaketet.

Påståendet att det Västsvenska paketet ska ”minska trafikens negativa påverkan på miljön” är helt enkelt falskt.

Som sagt, jag vet inte vem jag ska rösta på. Är miljön en viktig fråga för dig kan jag som miljöaktivist inte ge dig något råd utöver att använda personröstsmöjligheten och rösta in individer som är beredda att trotsa partilinjen. Just nu är det min bedömning att alla partier i regionvalet är lika vidriga i trafikrelaterade miljöfrågor. Fast förbannad är jag bara på de partier som jag själv tycker borde veta bättre.

Ian Fiddies

Göteborg 6 maj 2011

Först publicerad i Göteborgs Friatidning, 14 maj 2011

31
Mar
11

Road unbuliding anyone

29
Mar
11

White paper

This is something I’d like to discuss.

03
Jan
11

Money Worries

Worrying about money is probability a seasonal thing, judging from the crowds of people that thronged the high streets and shopping centres recently in the name of Christmas, a lot of people are most certainly wondering where their money went. Or if not where it went at least how they were persuaded yet again to squander their hard earned cash on things that yet again failed to deliver the deep contentment promised on the packaging.

 

What is the point of having an excess of money anyway if not to indulge yourself or the people around you in some of life’s small luxuries? Why not indeed, money isn’t a lot use when your dead? What else to do with money except spend it? That is what its made for after all. My own worry over money is that I can’t for the life of me figure out what it is. What is money exactly?

 

Money does seem to be important. If you don’t have any you do tend to notice. Suddenly you’re not welcome in a lot of places, like your local food shop or even at home if you can’t find the rent. There are a few descriptions floating about but none of them survive even simple scrutiny. Lets look at a few of them: “Money talks”; no it doesn’t, not even if you torture it. “Money makes the world go round”; not true either, if money did that then surely the speed of the earth’s rotation would be dependent on the amount in circulation.

 

A popular misconception is that the cash in your pocket somehow represents a bit of gold somewhere else in a secure vault. If this were true then the Americans would have had a hard time magicking into existence $600 billion worth of gold to back up the $600 billion in cash they magicked up late last year. Fiscal easing is the correct term for magicking up money I believe. Everyone can in principle create money, but most people who try this at home end up I prison.

 

Could money be something magical created by people who aren’t just broke but really don’t have enormous amounts of the stuff. The larger the amount of money you don’t have seems to be advantageous in some perverse way. The worlds richest nation is also the nation most in debt.

 

The vast majority of money in circulation today is virtual money anyway. Most of money made in the various property booms is not kept in piles of bank notes but in ones and zeros in a computer somewhere. Money doesn’t have to exist physically, you can have negative amounts of it so its obviously not at all like bananas or gold. The more I think about it the further I get from understanding what it is.

 

If one should decide to take part in the equally abstract concept of owning a bit of our planet you need quite large amounts of money, either positive or negative, to be able to achieve this dubious end. Could it be that money represents a bit of the planet? The total amount of money in circulation is increasing at the same time as the amount of available natural resources declines. This would explain where the stuff is coming from. Could it be that every cent, virtual or otherwise represents a tiny bit of the planet someone has destroyed? A frightening thought.

 

What then about poverty? Extreme poverty is usually described as having an amount of money close to zero. Someone living on less than a dollar a day is considered a pauper by conventional measures. This way of measuring poverty is misleading. Someone with access to land and water so they can sustain themselves comfortably. Combine these with the skills needed for agriculture and building and life on a dollar a day doesn’t look all that bad. Water, food, clothing and building materials to make a shelter are the necessities of life. Real poverty is lack of these basic necessities.

 

Who is poor? The man who has no money but possesses all the skills and natural resources they need to survive, or the man who has a wallet packed with currency and a bank account full of positive ones and zeros but lacks even the most basic knowledge on how to grow their own food. I think that this all depends on how long stocks last.

 

I wish I could figure out what money is.

 

Ian Fiddies

3 January 2011

on a train to Uppsala

 

 

 

 

07
Oct
10

I want to ride my bicycle

07
Oct
10

Put the fun between your legs




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