Tag Archive | transport

Fat flyers

I’ve just finished listening to this week’s SModcast podcast and it’s already one of my favourites.  SModcast is a podcast featuring Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier, and delves into news review, personal anecdotes and absurd speculation.

Although employing enough colourful metaphors to make a nun blush, the show is always funny and imaginative, and you don’t have to be a fan of Kevin Smith’s films to enjoy the podcast.

This week’s is an ’emergency SModcast’ after Smith was asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight for being too fat to fly, although Smith had flown with Southwest regularly.  Smith has a massive following, and as well as his podcast, has used his Twitter feed and blog to air his grievances.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the situation was used in a future film.

So why such publicity?  One of the points raised is the fear of complaining too much on an airplane.  How much is too much?  If you are too stubborn or demand that you be treated with dignity, you risk being hauled off the aircraft in handcuffs under armed guard and charged with an imprisonable offence.

So you shut up, and either write a strongly worded letter or take it on the chin.  Kevin Smith is fortunate enough to have an audience and has used it to hopefully encourage an airline to take notice and start treating their customers with respect.

In an increasingly overweight society, the introduction of new airport body scanners and the ridiculous treatment given to people who don’t fit into aircraft torture chairs, the humiliation of overweight air passengers will become more, not less, common.

Due to my height I’ve already had to endure hours in aircraft seats designed for people 6 inches shorter than me, but now that I’ve got too many kilos under my belt, I may be joining others facing the reproving looks of the stasi stewards and stewardesses quietly judging whether my girth is safe or not.

As if I didn’t have enough to worry about with my irrational terror of flying/exploding/crashing.


Letter: Keep verges green

Councillor Capstick’s choice in backing a petition to concrete over grass verges in the Ede Avenue area (Gazette, Calls to Scrap Parking Plans, 8th June) shows that when it comes to cars, the Progressives share an ideology with the main parties (including Labour) that says motorists come before pedestrians.  Some opposition.

South Tyneside has already lost enough verges to car parking, often paid for through Community Area Forum environmental ‘improvement’ funding.  Green verges make a positive contribution to the character of streets, and gives them a visually distinctive personality.  ‘Hard’ verges turn a street into a bland characterless car park, and may have a negative effect on property value.

It’s astounding that a councillor would fail to challenge the ridiculous claim that “grass verges are a bigger death trap to children” than parking spaces.  Hard verges mean drivers pulling onto pavements, which presents a risk to children, the disabled and those with visual or hearing impairment.  It also increases the available road space, which in turn encourages faster customary road speeds.  Research shows that more complex street environments tend to be associated with slower driving speeds, so green verges can play a part in road accident prevention.

Considering that traffic is the biggest single cause of accidental death for 12-16 year olds, concreting verges could prove tragic.

Blaming the road layout for damaged cars whilst ignoring poor driving looks like selective myopia.  Councillors should concentrate on enhancing road safety before worrying about protecting cars from scratches.

Letter: Councillors’ sanity fail

Reading the Gazette on Friday (November 3, “Distasteful legal challenge blasted”), I was reminded of Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Studies of completed road schemes show that when more road space is built, more cars will come to fill it up, and congestion will return. This gives us a simple rule: more road space leads to more traffic.

We also know that the extra cars attracted to the added road space bring with them emissions of greenhouse gases. This gives us a second, equally simple, rule: more roads lead to more CO2 emissions.

So it’s unsustainable and unacceptable in environmental terms, yet still our elected representatives in both local and national government cling to the road building folly.  With respect to the second Tyne road tunnel, South Tyneside Council gives the tunnel it’s full support, and Couns Jim Perry and Tom Hanson use a Community Area Forum meeting as a forum to criticise the legal bid to stop the second road tunnel.  Is there a pathological blindness to the reality of climate change?

It seems that when it comes to road building, our council and it’s members are not only behaving according to Einstein’s insanity definition, but they are also in collective denial.  Perhaps they could do with some ‘green’ counselling?

Letter: NE Chamber of Commerce’s misplaced angst

Instead of moaning about the meagre Legal Aid granted for Bryan Atkinson’s action against the second Tyne road tunnel (Gazette, Thursday, June 1), the North East Chamber of Commerce’s Andrew Sugden should aim his ire at the Tyne & Wear Passenger Transport Authority for squandering millions in public money on a folly.  In criticising the use of Legal Aid, the NECC is effectively declaring that access to justice should be the preserve of the rich.

Rather than being an “essential transport development”, the tunnel would prove to be an environmental burden to local residents, exacerbating health problems in an area already blighted by A19 and tunnel traffic.  The tunnel also fails on sustainability terms – the extra traffic attracted will further contribute to the UK’s growing carbon dioxide emissions at a time when we should be trying to reduce them.

The TWPTA and Government argue that the tunnel shouldn’t be subject to a fully rigorous and detailed Environmental Impact Assessment.  However, it’s clearly in the public interest to resolve the issues behind the case, which will impact on future large-scale developments, from roads to nuclear power stations.

The TWPTA enjoys massive financial resources courtesy of the public purse, whilst a citizen without money can only oppose this juggernaut by relying on limited Legal Aid funds to cover the high cost of barristers and solicitors.
The tunnel case is a grossly unbalanced environmental David and Goliath showdown.  Hopefully Legal Aid will be the sling to Bryan Atkinson’s pebble.

Letter: Coun Gordon Castle (again)

Councillor Castle (Voice of the North, March 11) asks me why the “Highways Agency blocked business expansion”. It’s a mischievous question, since I can’t speak for the Highways Agency – perhaps he should speak to them?

It is, however, reasonable for the Agency to ask developers to think about, and try to mitigate, the impact their projects will have on the road network and existing road users. In transport planning terms it’s common sense.

Far from being Coun Castle’s “obvious connection” between more roads and economic growth, it seems like a rather disingenuous attempt to link two separate issues.

We can’t continue to concrete our landscape in a vain effort to find a way out of what are perceived as road problems. As John Bagley of the Highways Agency said in the Journal, “Building more and more road space…is not a sustainable long-term solution”.

Coun Castle is correct that our response to climate change won’t be without some growing pains, but in terms of our economy it needn’t have a negative impact – and won’t cost the Earth.

Letter: Hepburn’s environmental split personality

It’s good to see Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn throw his weight behind the fight against climate change (Gazette 8th March).  It’s a pity that it seems like another example of political ‘greenwash’, as his government has failed to do anything concrete to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.  Mr Hepburn is a supporter of the second Tyne road tunnel and dualling of the A1 in Northumberland.  Building more roads helps to increase car use, bringing higher emissions.  Transport already accounts for 22% of the UK’s CO2 emissions.  Ignoring road building’s impact on the environment, the Labour government have another 200 road building schemes on the cards.

The Labour government is also behind massive airport expansion plans.  Since aviation is the UK’s fastest growing source of CO2 emissions, these plans seem more like environmental vandalism than “making positive progress”.

Far from having “done a significant amount to reduce greenhouse gas emissions” as Mr Hepburn claims, this government’s failure to act decisively has seen an increase in CO2 emissions since Labour came to power.

Environmental sustainability should form the basis of all local and national government decision making.  We’ve heard enough warm words on climate change from politicians.  We need bold action to fight it – now.

Letter: Response to Coun Gordon Castle

Councillor Gordon Castle’s accusation of my “economic illiteracy” only serves to further the sense that the A1 dualling debate generates more heat than light. His response simply repeats the myth that more road space will bring regional economic growth, whilst failing to provide any convincing supporting evidence.

There seems to be a lazy shorthand, symptomatic of Northumberland politics, that suggests that the A1 is to blame for the area’s economic woes.

Cllr Castle also claims that the “global warming card” “muddies the waters”. Quite the contrary, it puts road building clearly into its environmental context, both locally and globally. Putting more cars onto the roads is unsustainable, and building more road space contributes to increasing car usage. Is Cllr Gordon suggesting that we bury our heads in the sand with the environmentally oblivious minority that hope climate change will go away?

So, far from being “obviously crucial”, no clear need has yet been proven for dualling the A1 in terms of economic growth, safety or sustainability.

It’s ironic that in Northumberland, where many are campaigning against the alleged visual blight of wind turbines, the image of a motorway cutting through the countryside is considered perfectly acceptable.