While citizens curb car use and get on their bike, infrastructure policy still backs building roads – a source of inescapable pollution
Gary FullerThu 16 Aug 2018 21.30 BST
A recent British survey found 61% of respondents believing we should reduce car use. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian
Roads are not the largest source of many air pollutants but our everyday proximity to traffic means vehicles are responsible for a lot of the pollution we breath in. Some air pollutants from diesel vehicles have been out of control, with cars producing far more nitrogen dioxide on the streets than in official tests.
But there is good news. We are travelling less. The average person in the UK travels 10% fewer miles than in 2002. Young people are turning away from car ownership, the bicycle is now the most popular vehicle in the City of London’s rush hour, and a new survey reveals that 61% of us believe we should all reduce car use.
In the late 1990s a government report showed that new roads did not ease congestion; they encouraged more car use. Studies in the US have shown that doubling road capacity can double traffic.
So why are we planning to build more roads? A new report from the University of Leeds asks us to turn current thinking on its head. Rather than plan more roads we should think about what we want our cities and towns to be like and then about how vehicles might play a useful role.