As global populations have expanded over the past 50 years, there has also been an increase in the number of cars and this has corresponded to a growth in the number of roads constructed.
Bitumen is replacing forests and wetlands, smog is replacing clean air, traffic noise is replacing peacefulness and housing is replacing agricultural land. With increasing roads, more ecosystems are being lost. The systems that sustain life must either adapt or be destroyed.
Cities are dominated by the car. They are planned to facilitate the car, and the car is part of the urbanisation problem. Major arterial roads cut through cities and divide communities.
Public transport in most cities is a grim story of late and infrequent buses which are sometimes full to capacity, long circuitous bus routes, rising fares and greedy private operators.
Over the past 20 years in North America and many European countries, there has been an exodus of urban dwellers to the countryside. Country homes are built in locations that can only be accessed by cars. Previously an occasional passing vehicle has now become a barrage of trucks and cars. Tourism accounts for about a quarter of the traffic; the majority comes from commuters on their way to or from work, or shopping in the city. Many trucks use the roads and lanes as short cuts.
Traffic destroys rural tranquillity with noise and air pollution. For the safety of the drivers and pedestrians, more road lighting has to be installed. Large vehicles cause the crumbling of ancient country roads. The country lanes that were once social amenities, where people were able to enjoy walking, cycling and horse riding, are surrendered to traffic. Locals now considered it to be extremely dangerous to walk and ride down lanes due to their narrowness and speeding cars passing within a few centimetres. Traffic noise drowns out birdsong and exhaust fumes stifle the scents of wild flowers.
Roads, Urbanisation and Transportation are inextricably linked, but for more detail on Urbanisation and Transportation look under their own subject headings.
What you can do
Research has found that car dependence develops early in life, is shaped by parental travel choices and is influenced by social conditioning which promotes a car culture. If you are a parent, be a good example to your children by following some of these alternatives.
If you live within a kilometre or two of school, then walk. Older children can cycle and young children should be accompanied. Your children could take a bus. If you must drive, share the job of chauffeur with other parents. Encourage your school to create a green transport plan with the local council to reduce car travel and provide safe, sustainable alternatives. Schools can improve local road safety by marking and signposting walking and cycle routes.
Organise or join existing community groups. They are important for mobilising public support and getting councils to change their policies. Concentrate on getting a good plan together and do not get distracted arguing over the fine details. Involve residents in letter writing, public meetings, press events, getting names on a petition or protesting. Some people can produce reports outlining the situation.
Join Pedestrian Associations. They exist in some countries to counter the powerful road lobby and restore the rights of pedestrians.
Join an alternative breakdown service. Dubbed ‘the Green AA’, the Environmental Transport Association (ETA) in Britain is a road rescue and breakdown service. It campaigns for a better public transport system, better cities for pedestrians and cyclists and more protection for the countryside from the damaging effects of transport.
Live in the same suburb where you work and you may not need to own a car or use a car to get to work everyday. This will save you money and help the environment.
The telephone and the internet can be used to reduce car journeys. For paying bills, shopping or searching for information, technology enables us to save time and money, reduce stress and help the environment. The internet could be used more often to work from home.
We can reduce petrol consumption and pollution by keeping tyres properly inflated, removing unnecessary items from the boot and removing empty roof-racks. Driving smoothly, without speeding, will also help. There are many new cars on the market that are small and fuel-efficient. Ask about the environmental performance when looking at new cars.
Car travel is not very productive for the driver who has to keep most of their attention on the road. It is far better to take a train, tram or bus and relax or read a book or newspaper.
Use our lobbying service to write a letter or email your government and ask them to take action.
Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper on your concerns