Walking, cycling and public transport seminars often focus on the importance of integrated polices, good street design, providing the right infrastructure in the right places for the right people and travel behaviour change interventions.

Without a doubt, everyone is singing from the same song sheet when it comes to transport. We all know what we need to do.

If we all know what we need to do, then why aren’t we doing it?

An expert panel at a recent seminar suggested that some of the reasons why we’re not doing what we know we need to do include: current laws, multiple agencies with competing priorities, diverse leadership (for example, 31 municipalities form the Greater Melbourne area) and lobbying from special interest groups such as road builders.

Barack Obama says “The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something.”

So what can we just do right now?

Develop scenarios

Professional services firm KPMG have created two scenarios for an autonomous vehicles future. The first is focussed on privately owned autonomous vehicles. This scenario would lead to more demand for road infrastructure and exacerbate congestion. By contrast, the second scenario focusses on the introduction of autonomous ride-sourcing which has the potential to ease the burden of congestion in our cities and make transport systems more productive.

Developing scenarios invites others to help decide how to best respond.

Explain the consequences

Parents know that rather than telling your child “no” all the time, a smarter tactic is to make him/her aware of the potential consequences of their actions. That way, our children learn to make good choices when we’re not around to raise the alarm.

In South East Queensland we understand that most families desire or ‘value’ the prospect of buying in a large modern detached home with a swimming pool, media room and double garage. These people typically end up living far away from where they work to take advantage of cheaper house prices and smaller mortgage repayments. The consequences, however, are long commutes and hours stuck in traffic congestion.

Explaining the consequences invites discussion on how to make our cities great places to live, work and play.

Communicate positively

Messages and campaigns about traffic congestion are often dictatorial, negative and confusing. No one likes being told what and what not to do. Let’s tackle difficult issues like congestion, inactivity and obesity in a fun, positive, encouraging and inspirational way. Let’s tell stories, not facts, in a humanistic way.

Communicating positively invites people to be inspired to change their behaviour rather than feeling blamed.

As we know what we need to do, but we’re just not doing it, then maybe it’s time to developing scenarios, explaining the consequences and communicating in a positive way.

  • There is always talk of building communities though when the push comes to shove the economics of developments usually wins and social needs are left to be somehow 'fixed' later. We know this does not work though as a nation we keep doing it.
    In the early '70's property boom the Melbourne areas of Templestowe and Donscaster were major new housing construction sites, transport needs totally favoured the car and infrastructure for social needs lagged way behind. The consequences plague society at every level.
    Clearly we know what's wrong with the way things are being done and we know what not to do and even a lot of what we should be doing as the writer points out.
    Without political leadership to bring all the parties involved together to make a community plan that all can have a stake in and support the situation will not change. That leadership must be fully accountable and welcome that condition.
    So lets fix the politics and push aside special interest political voices and create a system that exposes political corruption at its source. With openness, honesty and commitment in leadership and with the focus on true community needs all voices can have a place at the planning table and be heard as they must be. It is doable – we just need the will and to take action.

    • Hi Peter
      Totally agree.
      In my book Decongestion the first step is vsion and leadership. I wrote….

      Political bravery – Political bravery is a City Leader who has the courage to deliver the change that they want to see.
      Ken Livingstone was brave and courageous for introducing the London Congestion Charge.

      Creating a big vision – Create a vision, a dream, an idea and a visualisation for the future.
      Boris Johnson is the current Mayor of London, and his vision for cycling in London is a “Tube network for the bike”, a bicycle “Cross rail” and “Cycle superhighways”.

      Forming a delivery taskforce – City Leaders often have the solution to the problem but they don’t always have the best mechanism to deliver the solution. London’s Mayor appointed a Cycling Commissioner, to drive the cycling projects forward and to win support for them from the other bodies whose backing is needed.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.
      Happy Christmas

  • Rachel. I haven't got time to go into a lot of detail but the transport issue is in fact not a transport issue at all. It is an urban infrastructure issue. The trouble is that in Australia we have largely adopted the US urban model away from CBD areas, rather than the EU urban model. Single dwellings on single blocks of land leads to low population densities of around 1200 people per square kilometre. In contrast the European model of four-storey blocks of units surrounded by parkland leads to population densities of 4500 people per square kilometre or greater. For pedestrian travel, bicycle travel andpublic transport to work well there is an underlying need for walking trips to destinations, bbuses or trains to be no greater than about 500 m. In turn this requires a public transport grid averaging no more than a square kilometre grid, and with multiple trips available per hour from early in the morning till late at night. With the US urban model the costs of such a grid versus the patronage are just not affordable. And this is compounded by the fact that small local shopping centres – the corner store concept – are not viable because there are not enough people nearby. As a result we have ended up with district/regional shopping centres, and the situation where they are so far away from many homes that people have to use a car to get there. and so on.
    so what we really need is for state and local government to make very difficult decisions aimed at totally rearranging our urban model. And that will be in the face of very strong opposition from many citizens because of their desire for their own residence on a single block.

    • Hi John
      Thanks for eading and commenting
      Agree. Land use is critical.
      I grew up in a little tiny market town in Devon, England. Everyone lived in cottages along the three main street with a corner shop at then end of each main roads. All the kids played in the town park becuase most people had a postage stamp sized back garden and their front door opened onto the street. Very different to the Australia three acre block!
      Happy Christmas

  • On another aspect, a single dwelling has a roof and four walls through its heat may be lost in winter or gained in summer – so the energy costs of heating and cooling are very high. In the EU model typically each unit will have only one external wall exposed to the elements, with a huge decrease in that the heating and cooling needs. and there is more.