A Response to the government's Consultation Exercise on:
Headline Indicators of Sustainable Development



What Is The Association Of British Drivers?

The Association of British Drivers ("ABD") was founded in 1992, by a group of drivers from across the country and from all walks of life who had become concerned that the case for the motor-car was no longer being put effectively in this country. It was felt that the AA and RAC, with their growing insurance businesses, were no longer fulfilling their traditional role, and that the time was right to set up an organisation solely dedicated to representing the interests of all car users — from ordinary motorists who rely on their car for every day mobility to enthusiasts of all kinds.

The ABD — Britain's Leading Drivers' Group

The ABD has taken part in several Consultation exercises in the past, having submitted, inter alia, responses to the Air Quality Strategy, Integrated Transport, Trunk Roads, and Highway Code Consultation Documents. We have been widely quoted in National and some local newspapers, motoring publications, and have appeared on BBC and independent radio and TV broadcasts. Our membership is rising across the country.

The ABD is also represented on the Parliamentary Advisory Council on Transport Safety ("PACTS").

The ABD is entirely independent and is funded by subscription.


Why Is The ABD Interested In The Headline Indicators of Sustainable Development Consultation Document?

We wish to ensure the fairness and balance of the burden of taxation which falls on the motorist, as well as drawing attention to its high overall level, especially in relation to what is spent on transport.

We are deeply concerned about the unscientific way in which alleged environmental problems are being used as justification for measures aimed at both increasing this burden of taxation and at restricting and obstructing drivers.

In all of these contexts, we feel that using road traffic as one of the key indicators of sustainable development is misleading and likely to encourage further punitive and unnecessary measures against the car driver.

Main Points

  1. The consultation document points out that the headline indicators should be easily understood and sensitive to the change they are intended to represent. For most of the indicators proposed these criteria appear to have been satisfied. However, this is not the case for "Transport".

  2. It is inappropriate that "road traffic" rather than overall transport has been chosen. All transport forms create pollution, use resources, emit carbon dioxide and cause congestion and delays. This choice of phrase is particularly inappropriate given that buses are excluded from the definition of "road traffic".
    · Buses are currently one of the primary sources of particulates in town centres (Emissions equivalent to 128 cars — NetCen)
    · Buses are no more efficient in energy terms than single occupancy cars if they are less than 20% full (Derived from RCEP report 18)

  3. It could be argued that increasing traffic is an indicator of improved sustainability. Increasing traffic is an indication of greater economic activity, greater personal freedom and a higher standard of living just as reducing traffic is indication of reduced congestion. These are all important elements of sustainable development, and the definition of road traffic as the headline indicator creates a conflict between these opposing factors.

  4. New cars are making dramatic improvements and reducing the toxic pollutants in their exhaust gases. Ambient levels of these pollutants are already well within WHO guideline levels at almost all published sites almost all of the time. Emissions were projected to fall 60-80% from 1990 levels by 2010, despite traffic growth (Warren Springs Laboratory).

  5. New cars are also becoming more fuel efficient and reducing their emissions of carbon dioxide.

  6. Road improvements and driver information systems, combined with teleworking and more flexible patterns of travel can bring about a significant reduction in congestion.

  7. A transport system that produces less pollution, consumes fewer resources and creates less congestion, even though the total number of vehicle miles has increased, would surely be said to be "more sustainable", not less.

  8. The effects of improving vehicle exhaust emissions will be shown within the proposed "air pollution" indicator.

  9. The effects of fuel consumption will be shown within the proposed "climate change" indicator.

  10. The remaining major impact from transport for which there is no indicator is "congestion and delay" with its associated impacts on business costs and quality of life. Since much congestion is created by planning policies which locate housing in areas where there are no jobs, leading to long distance commuting, such an indicator would be very important in measuring sustainability.

Conclusion and Recommendation

It is proposed that the indicator "Transport; Road Traffic" should be replaced by an indicator entitled "Transport; Congestion and Delay".

This, combined with the other headline indicators proposed, would give a good sense of whether the UK is moving towards a sustainable transport system.


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