Now, the London Evening Standard is not my favourite newspaper by a long way, and I suspect some element of bias in the writing, but this article, a brief interview with Phillip Hammond, the new Transport Secretary, caught my attention and is worth comment.
Firstly, I have no problem with anyone owning a nice car or enjoying driving, but to use the fact that “the car was the greenest in its class” to justify yourself as “taking safety and the environment deeply seriously” is nonsense. The Jaguar XJ comes with either a 3.0 or 5.0 litre engine. If you took the environment “deeply seriously” then you’d make some sacrifices to make your point – you’d give up your personal desire to own a nice car and buy something smaller.
Second, the article says that “he does not seem keen on walking to work, pointing out that his… ministerial office…is ‘a good 10 minutes hoof’ to Westminster Tube Station” and that he “has been picked up by a government driver in a Honda Civic from home in Pimlico, a 30-minute walk from his office”.
Hang on. He lives a 30-minute walk from his office and it’s 10 minutes walk from the tube? Lots of people would LOVE to live that close to where they work so that they could walk or cycle. 10- or 30-minutes walk is nothing and would be very good for you, it’s not an excuse to use a car.
But there’s another reason that he doesn’t cycle: “I’ve never actually cycled in London…I’d have to take a deep breath. I think you need to know what you are doing to cycle in London.”
Well there you go then Mr Phillips – you’re transport secretary and you won’t cycle because it’s too dangerous. I think you have identified one of the key problems that you need to sort out. We need to make cycling a safe and viable form of transport for more people – including government ministers.
Sitting in your nice Jag or Honda, watching cyclists and walkers go by isn’t going to help, you’ll need to get out, join them, take up the cause, start taking the environment and safety “deeply seriously” and do your bit to help.
The article may well be biased, but it seems that Mr Phillips has a lot of changes to make himself as well as on behalf of the country.