In his blog, “Compact Form: The Battle Against The Car”, Tommy reflects upon the car-oriented design of many modern cities and how we ought to go about creating new infrastructure for sustainable transport, phasing the car out of cities with a particular focus on density and urban form. I agree with Tommy in his post and would add a further dimension to his argument: The benefits to human health.
Unsurprisingly, designing cities and urban areas around the car has coincided with an increase in car usage in urban areas. This increase in car usage has naturally caused an decrease in the use of public transport in many cities with even a degree of stigma attached to those who choose to travel by public transport, best demonstrated by this quote attributed to Margaret Thatcher in 1986: “A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure.” In addition to this, walking and cycling are also less popular in cities with good car connectivity.
As outlined in our lecture given by Tim Townshend, there are a number of health advantages to phasing the car out of cities:
Increased Physical Exercise: It is relatively obvious that as private transport is phased out of cities, an increase is seen in the use of public transport but also cycling and walking. Cycling and walking as physical activities are good for the body as well as the mind and even relatively low level exercise such as walking can have marked physical and mental health benefits.
Improved Air Quality: In London, the congestion charge has been implemented at least partially to try and tackle the air pollution crisis in the city. In the past year the UK government has proposed to ban the sale of all petrol and diesel cars by 2040 with the primary reason given being to tackle air pollution. Thousands of deaths every year in the UK are attributed to air pollution with poor air quality in cities, caused at least in part by cars, believed to be a cause of cancer and heart attacks.
Decreased Stress: Driving a car is believed to be a significant cause of stress (leading in extreme cases to ‘Road Rage’). In addition to the ordinary act of driving, stress levels can be increased markedly by high traffic, road closures, road works, other road users and parking.
These are just a few examples of ways in which reducing the number of cars in our cities can benefit our health.
Margaret Thatcher quote: http://www.economist.com/node/7970987
Driving and Stress: https://www.healthcentral.com/article/driver-stress-causes-cures
Air Pollution and Health: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/0/high-air-pollution-city-does-compare-themost-polluted-cities/
Petrol and Diesel Car Ban: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40726868
Mental Health and Urban Design: https://www.urbandesignmentalhealth.com/