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Cycle more, drive less once pandemic ends, urges AA president

Edmund King predicts big post-crisis shift in commuting patterns, and says lockdown has highlighted benefits of active travel

AA president Edmund King is urging people to cycle more and drive less once the coronavirus pandemic ends, saying that the recent months have helped underline the benefits of active travel and reducing car dependency.

Speaking to the Independent, King highlighted three areas where he believes lasting change in travel habits can happen post-pandemic – active travel, commuting, active travel, and switching to electric vehicles.

Despite his role with the motoring organisation, he has long advocated using modes of transport best suited to the journey being made, be that train, car, or by bike and on foot, and he believes that restrictions on travel in recent months have revealed the benefits of active travel to many when it comes to short trips.

> AA President calls for end to 'Two Tribes' mentality that divides cyclists and motorists

“Most of us have learnt in lockdown you don’t need to drive a long way to get your shopping, carry out essential services,” King said.

“There are lots of things that can be done locally. So think local after lockdown and to consider that you don't have to always make those long trips.

“You can walk, you can cycle. And one of the good things during lockdown is seeing far more people cycling.

“So when this all passes, hopefully some of us can think about not being so dependent on the car and using the best means for the best journey.

“Often that's using two feet or two wheels,” continued King, who also predicted a reduction in the number of households owning multiple motor vehicles, as well as more switching to electric vehicles due to advances in the technology and increased ranges that can be covered before recharging.

On the subject of commuting, King pointed out the big reduction in travel to work brought about by the coronavirus crisis, with many businesses closed or permitting employees to work from home, and King believes that shift towards the latter will be permanent,

“In the past people would work nine till five,” he said. “Everyone would get into their car, onto the train, onto the buses, onto the Tube, all at the same time.

“We have found that you don’t necessarily have to do that, and you can still work.”

He suggested that once the economy fully reopens, many might still only travel into work for between one and three days a week, which he said “would have a massive effect on reducing congestion and pollution, and it would be better for our well-being.”

In response to claims that only a full return to commuting could help city-centre businesses recover, he said: “To balance that, it’s also helped a lot of local economies in towns and villages where people live. It’s actually meant that the people working from home are using those facilities.

“If people are working from home two or three days a week, that can still contribute to the economic in the cities. It’s getting that balance right.”

> AA launches Cyclist's Highway Code, backed by Boardman

The government has made encouraging people to travel on foot or bike where possible and avoid unnecessary car use as a key part of its plans for recovery from the pandemic.

However, levels of motor traffic during the current national lockdown are well above those seen when restrictions were first brought in last March, leading to near-empty roads.

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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20 comments

Avatar
EarleyMan | 3 years ago
2 likes

Do not be taken in by Mr King's occasional posturing. The AA campaign for measures such as the fuel duty freeze, free parking and 'fair' (i.e. lax) enforcement of parking restrictions and against cycling infrastructure, road pricing etc. Basically a continuation of state subsidy for driving and locking in car dependancy.

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Muddy Ford | 3 years ago
0 likes

For this comment alone I will use AA for my breakdown insurance, even if it costs me more. We need people in the motor industry making statements like this, and my little reward of given them my business is as much as I can do to support that.

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Simon E replied to Muddy Ford | 3 years ago
0 likes

King is not really speaking on behalf of the business. I wouldn't judge them on the basis of one interview in a media outlet that is a pale shadow of its original self.

I'd recommend that look at a more ethical organisation that doesn't push for lower fuel prices (thereby encouraging extra car use and burning more fossil fuels). ETA, for example. Also, most insurers offer recovery options with your car insurance, which are likely to be cheaper and simpler than the AA.

Avatar
iandusud | 3 years ago
6 likes

How refreshing to hear someone who knows what they are talking about talking common sense about transport. Well done Edmund King.

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Simon E replied to iandusud | 3 years ago
2 likes
iandusud wrote:

How refreshing to hear someone who knows what they are talking about talking common sense about transport. Well done Edmund King.

Sadly it will have zero impact on the number of cars on the road. There are lots of seemingly influential voices talking sense already and some have been doing so for years.

But many people will continue to drive until there is decent, safe infrastructure and a strong disincentive to get in their cars - car-free lockdown streets or a sharp rise in the cost of fuel, for example. Just look at the (IMHO misplaced) anger over LTNs to see how resentful some are about being slighty inconvenienced when residential streets used as rat-runs are closed at one end.

It will take a lot more than Boardman, King and such voices to bring about real change but at least the conversation is changing.

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Sriracha replied to Simon E | 3 years ago
1 like

True, but people such as King at least have the ear of motorists in a way that someone who made his name in cycling might not. And it counts twice, as it's also one less voice against.

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Simon E replied to Sriracha | 3 years ago
0 likes
Sriracha wrote:

True, but people such as King at least have the ear of motorists in a way that someone who made his name in cycling might not.

So how widely has it been reported?

Has there been any social media buzz? 19 likes and 3 RTs of his 2 day old tweet does not make for a viral post, or even a particularly popular one.

How much will it affect AA policy, PR and literature?

It's not memorable, it's not attention-grabbing and will be forgotten in minutes. I applaud the sentiment, of course, but it changes nothing.

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IanMK replied to iandusud | 3 years ago
0 likes

Why on earth would we start listening to experts😃

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brooksby | 3 years ago
5 likes
Quote:

However, levels of motor traffic during the current national lockdown are well above those seen when restrictions were first brought in last March, leading to near-empty roads.

Definitely.  During Lockdown 1, the city centre roads were practically empty practically all of the day.  During this Lockdown (is this #3? I lose count...) it's definitely still quieter than 'normal'/non-Lockdown times, but waaay busier than during the first Lockdown.

 

I imagine a lot of people don't want to go to Specsavers...  3

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Hirsute replied to brooksby | 3 years ago
3 likes
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Rik Mayals unde... replied to brooksby | 3 years ago
1 like

To be honest, here in Preston it is as busy as it normally is, apart from standing traffic on the M6. The traffic on the local roads is back to normal. 

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Jenova20 replied to brooksby | 3 years ago
3 likes
brooksby wrote:
Quote:

However, levels of motor traffic during the current national lockdown are well above those seen when restrictions were first brought in last March, leading to near-empty roads.

Definitely.  During Lockdown 1, the city centre roads were practically empty practically all of the day.  During this Lockdown (is this #3? I lose count...) it's definitely still quieter than 'normal'/non-Lockdown times, but waaay busier than during the first Lockdown.

 

I imagine a lot of people don't want to go to Specsavers...  3

 

Each lockdown brings less cars on the road, but the more dangerous drivers are still there and have more space to speed about and terrorise the cyclists. This may just be my experience; but i've had to buy a camera since the first lockdown just because of how dangerous it's suddenly become. I'm now having to make up to 5 police reports a week.

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imajez replied to Jenova20 | 3 years ago
0 likes

I seem to recal London Police saying speedingoffences were up during first lockdown. 

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mdavidford replied to imajez | 3 years ago
0 likes

Drivers caught speeding were up, which isn't quite the same thing. It's likely to be, at least in part, driven by an increase in enforcement activity, since they were making a big deal about the dangers of speeding at the time, plus the fall in traffic generally would have freed up resource to focus more on speeding.

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imajez replied to mdavidford | 3 years ago
0 likes

The big thing was that the roads were emptier, so no traffic holding folks up. 
Plus the only folk likely to be out were scofflaws anyway. There was far less traffic on roads, but sadly no equivalent corresponsing drop in dickhead driving near cyclists. 
Traffic monitoring systems showed speeds were up significantly. 

Here's an article on some of the more egregious driving. 

 

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mdavidford replied to imajez | 3 years ago
0 likes

It's quite possible that speeding offences were up, given the emptier roads would make it easier. I'm just pointing out that that isn't what the Met reported.

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wycombewheeler replied to mdavidford | 3 years ago
0 likes
mdavidford wrote:

Drivers caught speeding were up, which isn't quite the same thing. It's likely to be, at least in part, driven by an increase in enforcement activity, since they were making a big deal about the dangers of speeding at the time, plus the fall in traffic generally would have freed up resource to focus more on speeding.

Or the fact that it is very difficult to speed on congested roads, take away the congestion and new opportunities present themselves.

Avatar
Sriracha | 3 years ago
7 likes
Quote:

Cycle more, drive less once pandemic ends, urges AA president

Why wait?

Avatar
Hirsute replied to Sriracha | 3 years ago
2 likes
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Jetmans Dad replied to Sriracha | 3 years ago
0 likes
Sriracha wrote:
Quote:

Cycle more, drive less once pandemic ends, urges AA president

Why wait?

If you are working from home now, but won't be once the pandemic ends, it is a perfectly valid suggestion. 

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