Posted on May 29, 2020
At the end of April, the retail consultant Mary Portas appeared on the BBC’s World at One programme to discuss how physical shopping could continue to function during the coronavirus crisis.
Portas has a bit of form for, shall we say, car-centric ‘solutions’ to high street problems, proposing the quack remedy of free parking as a response to town centre decline, and generally arguing for unfettered access by motor traffic to shopping streets, while simultaneously paying scant attention to benign modes of transport like walking and cycling. So it was perhaps no great surprise to hear her complaining about having to pay car parking charges in London boroughs during the coronavirus pandemic, while singing the praises of department stores that have converted themselves into drive-throughs, a kind of transformation that these hidebound councils are apparently not enlightened enough to adopt.
I was reminded of this episode by this excellent cartoon from Dave Walker, which manages to capture the Dystopian reality of the Portas worldview in the left panel.
At an individual level, travelling by private car is of course the safest way for you, personally, to travel around, with no interaction whatsoever with the outside world. And unfortunately it’s only a short mental leap from that insulated travel to insulated everything, with no need to exit the motor vehicle for any kind of human activity outside of the home – the car, combined with an entirely car-based public realm, as the ultimate form of personal protective equipment.
Once just a way of getting from one place to another, the car has been turned into a mini-shelter on wheels, safe from contamination, a cocoon that allows its occupants to be inside and outside at the same time.
And this behaviour is happening already, simply an accelerated form of the car-dependent lifestyles that existed pre-coronavirus. Friends meeting up in cars, graduation ceremonies in cars, drinking coffee in cars, going clubbing in cars. And these American trends have appeared in the UK, primarily as drive-through fast-food outlets have begun to re-open.
Two futures – As Easy As Riding A Bike
Posted on May 29, 2020 At the end of April, the retail consultant Mary Portas appeared on the BBC’s World at One programme to discuss how physical shopping could continue to function during the coronavirus crisis. Portas has a bit of form for, shall we say, car-centric ‘solutions’ to high street problems, proposing the quack… [Read More]