El Complejo de la Movilidad: John Whitelegg enciende un fuego

Origen: The Mobility Complex: John Whitelegg lights a fire. | World Streets: The Politics of Transport in Cities

Whitelegg book cover Mobility

 

 

El Professor John Whitelegg, es un hombre extraordinario que ha pasado toda su vida profesional como académico, docente, crítico, editor, activista y político, tratando de darle sentido a nuestro curioso mundo y las contradicciones del transporte y la movilidad. Y en un intento exitoso para traer todos los hilos juntos, lo que ha aprendido acerca de nuestro tema en tres décadas de trabajo internacional que abarca todos los continentes_ acaba de producir para nuestra lectura e instrucción un notable y , creo sinceramente muy necesario libro. Su título descubre el juego – Movilidad: Filosofia de la Planificación del Transporte para un Futuro Sostenible.

El punto de vista de John sobre el transporte y la movilidad está condicionado por el hecho de que su punto de partida es la geografía (su doctorado) y la lucha cuesta arriba hacia el desarrollo sostenible y la justicia social (su profesorado). Y en el caso de este último libro _ profundiza más allá de todo lo que podemos encontrar en el campo repleto de libros, informes y artículos sobre el transporte sostenible, que se publicará este año con el fin de penetrar en las entrañas sobre lo que realmente se trata todo : la filosofía de la vida detrás de todo. Porque si no tenemos la filosofía no podemos tener la visión. Y si no tenemos la visión no hay manera de que podamos dar forma e influir nuestro futuro.

Un puñado de cosas distinguen Mobility” del resto: Es muy necesario. Es oportuno. Es sabio. Es legible. Desafía y hace que tu cerebro funcione. Y por menos de $ 10, puedes tenerlo ante tus ojos en unos pocos minutos (ver más abajo instrucciones para pedir ). Sin embargo, una cosa más que distingue este libro_ y de hecho todo su trabajo de los demás, y la voluntad absoluta del autor de entrar al combate armado intelectual para exponer y defender sus ideas y valores. El trabajo de John siempre trae a la mente las maravillosas palabras del apasionado poeta irlandés y político_ William Butler Yeats, que escribió hace un siglo que “La educación no es llenar un balde, sino encender un fuego. John enciende el fuego.

Mobility: A New Urban Design and Transport Planning Philosophy for a Sustainable Future – John Whitelegg, Stockholm Environment Institute

Resumen del Autor

Hemos experimentado más de 200 años, de crecimiento de la movilidad medida por las distancias que recorremos cada día o cada año, y este crecimiento es alimentado por _ grandes subsidios que hacen llorar, un persistente sesgo en política y la planificación en favor de mayor distancia y mayor velocidad y una sorprendente falta de conciencia de las enormes consecuencias negativas del crecimiento de la movilidad. Para contrarrestar esta enorme y costosa falacia, el libro toma una mirada detallada, forense a la movilidad y llega a la conclusión de que es un mal valor- por el dinero, daña la salud y la vida en comunidad y consume enormes cantidades del escaso efectivo público en el nombre de más y mejor infraestructura.

Casi todos los gobiernos y partidos políticos, con excepción de los Verdes, (NO PVEM) proclama los supuestos beneficios de mas capacidad aeroportuaria, más carreteras y libramientos, más trenes de alta velocidad y acepta el crecimiento de la movilidad como bueno para la felicidad, la riqueza y la calidad de vida. “Mobility” establece una historia muy diferente. Más movilidad no produce las cosas buenas de la vida y mata a más de 3000 personas cada día en colisiones viales, crea ruido y contaminación del aire que dañan la salud, alimenta el crecimiento de gases de efecto invernadero que hacen al perjudicial cambio climático más probable y destruye la saludable movilidad activa, y  la vida comunitaria en los barrios sociables.

Ha llegado el momento de ponerle fin al fetiche de la movilidad , para reemplazar lejos con cerca, para crear ciudades habitables amigables a los niños y para ponerle fin al papel del coche como la opción por defecto. El libro muestra por qué debe hacerse esto, cómo puede hacerse y establece un proceso de política para hacerlo.

Contenidos:

Dedication
Introduction

  1. How mobile are we and how did we get here?
  2. Consequences
  3. Death and Injury
  4. Air Quality
  5. Fiscal Impacts
  6. Energy
  7. Climate Change
  8. Obesity
  9. Inequalities
  10. Community Disruption
  11. Freight
  12. Aviation
  13. China and India
  14. Conclusions
  • References 
  • List of Figures and Tables 
  • Acknowledgments

# # # 

Chapter 1: How mobile are we and how did we get here?

The mobility growth paradigm

Mobility is most commonly measured, if at all, as total distance travelled per annum per capita in kilometres and/or total distance travelled per day per capita. There are other important dimensions e.g. number of trips made per day or number of destinations that can be accessed by different modes of transport in a defined unit of time but these are not generally measured in a systematic way or included in data sets.

Usually mobility is not defined. It has become a rather vague concept associated with quality of life or progress and it is invoked as a “good thing” and something that should be increased. This is very clear in most national transport policies and at the European level where major transport policies and funding mechanisms are increasingly framed.

A recent EU research and development document (European Commission 2013a) begins with the main heading “Mobility for growth.” It does not define mobility.

The document is an undiluted manifesto accepting and promoting the growth of mobility and advocating the importance of this growth for the success of wider economic policy objectives, asserting the unquestioned importance of endless economic growth and ignoring the voluminous literature on the impossibility of endless economic growth and of ecological and resource limits to growth (Douthwaite, 1992, Schneidewind, 2014).

The European Commission document contains no recognition whatsoever of the well-developed sustainable transport discourse with its emphasis on traffic reduction, demand management, urban planning in favour of the “city of short distances” and modal shift from the car to walking, cycling and public transport or from the aircraft to electronic substitution e.g. videoconferencing. Similarly it airbrushes out of the picture the need to de-carbonise transport and link something called “mobility for growth” to the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector.

There is no suggestion that spatial planning has a role to play. We could, for example, plan for the tripling of rail capacity in the UK on the West Coast Main Line (WCML) or we could plan for a step change in the importance and functionality of Liverpool and Manchester so that we do not “need” to get on a train to London every time something important has to be discussed. In other words we can manage demand rather than feed a growth in demand through an increase in capacity and/or subsidy.

Traffic reduction and demand management have a great deal to offer to the world of economic success, which is not the same as growth, but those who write key policy statements in Brussels and those in London who urge Brussels to set the tone of the growth paradigm, do not intend to stray very far from the world of “mobility for growth.”

On aviation the document says that world air transport is growing by 4-5% pa and “we should therefore seize all opportunities associated with this growth.” The aviation discussion then proceeds to emphasise the importance of reducing travel time for flying and increasing air capacity, both of which will contribute to the growth in demand for air travel and together with huge subsidies for aviation will produce the self-fulfilling prophecy of growth in this dimension of mobility.

I return to the question of subsidy in Chapter 5 but it is pertinent at this point to draw attention to the huge subsidies that aviation receives and the role this has to play in generating higher levels of demand for flying. The annual subsidy to European aviation is 30 billion Euros (Cramer, 2014).

On rail and road transport there is the same uncritical acceptance of growth in demand with a nod towards the need to make all modes of transport cleaner, greener and smarter and reduce noise and air pollution. Interestingly there is no discussion about the costs of all this growth in transport demand and who will fund the public expenditure share. Current levels of subsidy to transport already exceed some estimates of Greek national debt at 270-290 billion Euros pa (European Environment Agency, 2007) and the message from Brussels is keep on spending because the growth in mobility is good.

The document even manages a section on reducing congestion without mentioning the scope for reducing the number of cars and trucks on the roads. This is a remarkable achievement. It does, however, mention the importance of walking, cycling and public transport with the insertion of an important condition:

“Exploring how a favourable environment can be created for a significant growth in public transport at limited extra costs” (page 37).

There is no use of the phrase “at limited extra costs” when the discussion deals with the billions of Euros needed to fund high speed rail estimated to be £50 billion on the Uk high speed rail project known as HS2 (House of Commons, 2015) or, indeed, additional airport capacity or new motorways.

The total research allocation funding in this European Commission document for “smart, green and integrated transport” and its unbridled support for growth in mobility is 579 million Euros in 2014 and 287 million Euros in 2015.

We are very clearly locked into a mobility growth paradigm with high level political and budgetary support and low level thinking about what it really means. What will the world look like if we all (and this includes the populations of Africa, India, China and South America) travel very far, very fast and very often for as many destinations and trip purposes as possible? This is the logical end point of a policy called “mobility for growth” but those advocating higher levels of mobility are most reluctant to flesh out the details of the world that will have been created.

Interestingly Schaefer (2005) has given us a clear picture of this end point. Schaefer makes a valuable contribution to the mobility debate by calculating the total per capita distance travelled at a future point in time based on a number of “givens.” The starting point is the travel time constant for the amount of time human beings will travel each day (approx. 1.1 hours) discussed in detail by Zahavi (1979) and Marchetti (1994). This is then linked to a generalized estimate of increases in speed of travel over a long time period. Schaefer then calculates that the logical end point for every person on the planet is that he or she will be travelling 262,800 kilometres per year. This is based on the equation:

  • 600 kph x 1.2 hours per day x 365 days per annum= 262,800 kilometres.

This calculation is shown graphically in Figure 1.1.Whitelegg book figure 1

Schaefer’s calculation is logically watertight and is supported by the rhetoric in “Mobility for Growth.” Those that support higher levels of mobility have a responsibility to be very clear about how far this growth can or should continue and the extent to which it is fuelled by subsidy and sloppy spatial planning. They are silent on all these points

# # #

How to obtain the book

Mobility was published today, 1st September 2015, by Amazon Press as a Kindle book. It  can be ordered by clicking to  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B013H0ZYU0  and following the simple step by step instructions. The cost, including delivery, is a healthy $ 9.84. A free app is available for your computer, tablet or smart phone for easy reading.

So once you have it in hand, get away from your desk, find your favorite armchair, pour yourself a glass of wine or tea, and start to spend some time challenging your thinking with Professor John Whitelegg.

# # #

Independent reviews and commentaries

* From the Road Danger Reduction Forum –   http://rdrf.org.uk/2015/08/14/book-review-mobility-by-john-whitelegg/

# # #

About the author:

john whitelegg

John Whitelegg is Visiting Professor of Sustainable Transport at Liverpool John Moores University and research associate with the global science policy organisation, the Stockholm Environment Institute.  He has written11 books on sustainable transport and related issues.  He has worked on sustainable transport projects in India, China, Australia, Germany, Sweden and Slovenia, and on the same subjects with the European Parliament and European Commission.  He is the technical author of the world’s first technical standard on reducing demand for private motorised transport, aspublished by the British Standards Institution.  He is a member of the International Advisory Board of the Wuppertal Institute for Climate and Energy in Germany and an invited contributor to seminars and training course on road safety at the World Health Organisation.  He is founding editor of the journal “World Transport Policy and Practice” which is now in its 21st year of publication.

# # #

Editor Postscriptum:

Dear Reader.

Of course if you have gotten this far you have already run your eyes over the following words.  But to bring today’s World Streets piece to an end, let us look once again at Whitelegg’s strong stand and elegant critical views on much of government policy in this important area of policy and practice. As you will immediately see, he has not set out to make friends in high places.  And if until now his totally justified critical views have been systematically ignored by bureaucrats in Brussels, London and in many national capitals, this is part of a groundswell that is feeding the underpinnings of deeper thinking about the issues. Here is John once again:

A recent EU research and development document (European Commission 2013a) begins with the main heading “Mobility for growth.” It does not define mobility.

The document is an undiluted manifesto accepting and promoting the growth of mobility and advocating the importance of this growth for the success of wider economic policy objectives, asserting the unquestioned importance of endless economic growth and ignoring the voluminous literature on the impossibility of endless economic growth and of ecological and resource limits to growth (Douthwaite, 1992, Schneidewind, 2014).

The European Commission document contains no recognition whatsoever of the well-developed sustainable transport discourse with its emphasis on traffic reduction, demand management, urban planning in favour of the “city of short distances” and modal shift from the car to walking, cycling and public transport or from the aircraft to electronic substitution e.g. videoconferencing. Similarly it airbrushes out of the picture the need to de-carbonise transport and link something called “mobility for growth” to the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector.

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