This TV programme was transmitted in the UK in 1992. That’s 27 years ago. I’m fairly sure that I watched the programme as I would certainly have been interested in this subject at that time. None of the the problems shown in this nearly 30 year old video have really been resolved. Many of the proposed solutions remain the same but they’ve not been implemented. It’s another story of missing opportunities resulting in the problems only getting worse:
Points of interest:
- Cambridge, like most cities, had a problem with car traffic in the city centre. They “solved” this by banning not only cars but also bicycles from some central streets. The bicycle ban was the reason why many of us who took part in protest cycle rides around that time. It was also the catalyst for the formation of the Cambridge Cycling Campaign. The bicycle ban has still not been overturned on the city centre streets so cyclists are still forced to make their journeys on less direct roads which were made more unsafe by heavier traffic due to the cars routed around the central streets.
- When the video was made, there were already 23 million cars in the UK. A doubling was predicted to occur within 30 years. The last date for which Wikipedia has data is 2016 and by then there were 38.9 million cars on the UK’s roads. i.e. up to 2016 the rate of increase was actually somewhat ahead of the prediction in the film (23*2*24/30 = 36.8).
- Climate change effects due to cars are covered. Because the number of cars has doubled this is twice the problem now that it was then.
- Electric cars are suggested as a solution though the presenter points out that they could of course never solve the problem of congestion and that the emissions are mostly just pushed to power stations. We now know that total emissions of electric cars are comparable with those of IC engine cars. But even if that were not the case, adding a tiny number of them to a near doubling of the total fleet (all of which were sold as “green”) they would have had no effect next to the near doubling of total emissions due to the growth in use of IC engine vehicles. This is why total emissions have also almost doubled.
- Local pollution due to cars is seen as a problem. Many cars still ran on leaded fuel when the film was made and few had catalytic converters. These two changes to cars resulted in genuine reductions to health problems due to local exhaust emissions. However, particulate pollution always came in large part from the tyres and brakes. A doubling of the number of cars will have resulted in a doubling of this type of local pollution.