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For some newspapers, the imposition of speeding fines is a “war on the motorist.” The latest front in this supposed war is led by a group not usually noted for radical anti-car tendencies.
According to the headline on a double-page spread in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph the “elite are determined to kill off the car.”
Folks from the elite tend to be Tesla and Lamborghini owners, so it’s a strange claim for the Telegraph to make. What is the newspaper basing its claim on and is the car really as endangered as the giant panda or the black Rhino?
The claim, it turns out, is based on “increasing insurance premiums, new city charging zones and pollution-busting road restrictions.”
In the face of such existential threats, the number of motor vehicles must have decreased, then? Hardly. The Telegraph itself admits: “The number of licensed cars on the roads has increased virtually every year over the past two decades, from 27 million in 2000 to 35 million in 2020.”
So are motorists latterly being priced off the road? Again, no. The cost of motoring remains lower than the cost of public transport. According to the RAC Foundation, bus fares increased by 65-70% over the last ten years, while the cost of motoring rose by 20% over the same period.
Britain’s motorists, states the Telegraph, “face a perfect storm of Whitehall-inspired schemes to drive down urban car usage and an international crisis sending petrol prices to record highs.”
And, warns the Telegraph, “it’s going to get worse.”
How so? “Whitehall bike enthusiasts have come up with $245 million for new cycles lanes, pedestrianization and feasibility studies into creating ‘mini-Hollands’ in 19 cities.”
$245 million sounds like a lot, but it’s for 134 projects and, to put this into perspective, the government has recently okayed $306 million for just one new motorway junction.
And it pales into insignificance when you consider the motor-traffic-only Silvertown tunnel in London will cost nearly $2.5 billion over 30 years.
Despite these cold, hard financial facts, former transport minister John Spellar told the Telegraph—an organ known as the voice piece of the ruling Tory party— that the government has an “anti-car attitude.”
So anti-car that there’s still a $33 billion program to build more roads for motorists.
“How did we come to this apparent hostility to the car,” asks the Telegraph, apparently seriously.
The answer to “how Britain went to war on the car … can be traced back to the 1973 energy crisis,” asserts the newspaper, stating that was when the 70mph speed limit for motorways was introduced.
Shockingly, later administrations introduced speed cameras to catch motorists, er, speeding.
Cameras, continues the Telegraph, were “coupled with a new road strategy aiming at almost halving fatalities.”
(This is a bad thing?)
It’s part of a program of “pettifogging,” Tory MP Craig MacKinlay told the newspaper.
“Motorists have become another cash cow for local government, regional government, mayoralties, and central government,” complained the MP for South Thanet.
“We’ve just got to get out of people’s hair,” he added, “stop the pettifogging, stop the annoyance.”
The Telegraph piece doesn’t expand on its headline claim that there’s an “elite” who are “determined to kill off the car.”
Instead, the newspaper quotes a policy document issued last year in which Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “I support councils, of all parties, which are trying to promote cycling and bus use. And if you are going to oppose these schemes, you must tell us what your alternative is because trying to squeeze more cars and delivery vans on the same roads and hoping for the best is not going to work.”
Meanwhile, motorists continue to use the 247,100 miles of roads in the U.K., with only a tiny number of such highways closed to their use. And motorists also have a dedicated 2,300-mile network of motorways.
As the adage goes, equality feels like oppression when you’re accustomed to privilege. And yet equality for cyclists, pedestrians, and users of public transport appears to be a very long way off. Some war.