Klean Kanteen Insulated (591 ml/20 US fl oz)

I first heard of Klean Kanteen (KK) via Lovely Bicycle. They are available here in the UK (including in a few bricks and mortar shops) but as they are made for the US market, their capacities are made to crazy US units, rather than sensible, rest-of-the-world metric.

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Vacuum flasks are nothing new, but the majority of vacuum flasks on the market are aimed at people who want to carry hot, still drinks and are often sold with lids intended to double up as cups to drink from. Something I wanted for a long time is a vacuum flask for cold, possibly fizzy drinks and which I could drink from directly whilst on the go, rather than using a separate cup, but there did not seem to be any products which could need this requirement. One of my main aims was to reduce the number of cold drinks I purchased whilst out and about on warmer days, partly to save money and partly because of the tendency of many shops to use broken/ineffective drinks chillers or to not bother with stock rotation when filling fridges (Boots and Superdrug, I am looking at you).

Eventually, I found out that Klean Kanteen made insulated versions of some of their classic range of bottles. The size I bought (nominally 591 ml, 600 ml in practice) came with a loop carabiner lid, and I was not sure if the lid would be ok with fizzy drinks. However, I saw that a larger version of the same bottle (but with a swing-top lid) was being sold by Klean Kanteen as a growler* for carrying (carbonated) beer.

For a while I used the loop carabiner lid, but the seal on this did not do very well with carbonated drinks; the lid had to be screwed down very tight to prevent the pressure leaking out and when it was opened, a small part of the seal would often unseat before the rest, sometimes resulting in a highly directional spray (especially after riding the Brompton over cobbles). This happened in quite spectacular fashion as a sat in the quiet coach of a Virgin Pendolino to Edinburgh, spraying two fellow passengers with a fine mist of Pepsi Max. After this, I decided to give the Swing-top lid sold with the Klean Kanteen growlers a try instead. The addition of the swing-lock cap produces an ideal solution for keeping cold, fizzy drinks cold and fizzy for an extended period of time (9+ hours has been no problem). Occasionally, I have also had coffee in the bottle, which stays hot enough for me for at least four hours (and possibly a fair bit more too). A few times, I have used it for beer too.

Another feature of the flask which I like is that it is constructed from 18/8 stainless steel, inside and out. Whilst I suspect that the recent hysteria about BPA is overblown, I do not like the flavour-retention which happens with most re-usable plastic bottles. Aluminium bottles can also have this problem, as they require lining and this lining is usually made of some sort of polymer. The advantage of stainless steel is that it does not retain or impart any flavour on the contents of the bottle and is resistant to corrosion from the sorts of things you are likely to store inside the bottle and also the sorts of conditions the outside is likely to be exposed to. It is also durable, I have dropped mine a few times and whilst it is dented, it still functions perfectly well.

This bottle really works well for me, I use it everyday. I even took it with me when I had to travel to Japan for work in early May, which allowed me to really maximise the benefit from the airport lounge access I got as a check-in bonus.

*Growlers are vessels for transporting draught beer from a bar or brewery for later consumption elsewhere. I suspect that the name may be hindering the concept in the UK somewhat.

Update

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I have been in Kunming, China for a few weeks and I have really appreciated having the KK bottle with me. Tap water here is not drinkable, and in some of the workplaces I’ve visited there are often very few opportunities to get a drink. When drinking water is available, the custom is to serve it hot (which I do not find particularly refreshing) due to long-standing concerns here about water quality. Luckily, I’ve been able to have clean, icy-cold water available whilst at work and travelling around. It may seem like a small thing, but it has made the wider situation a lot more tolerable.

The Cargo Cult of Cycling Culture

Cycling culture is a term which is nebulous enough that it can mean significantly different things to different people.

To some, it will bring to mind images of hipsters and the fixed gear scene, or the likes of the counter-cultural Critical Mass movement. To others, it will invoke the BMX scene, or road cycling clubs, or people who live and breathe mountain biking. The one thing linking all of these ideas of cycling culture is that their members all take the bicycle and make it a significant part of their identities.

Because of this, I find it weird when “cycling culture” is discussed as a cause of cycling being a mainstream mode of transport in The Netherlands. The implication is that Dutch people are not choosing how to travel primarily based on their experience of their environment, but because of some sort of unique “cycling culture” which is a part of being Dutch. This implies that this ill-defined “cycling culture” would need to be somehow replicated in the UK in order to allow cycling to become a mainstream mode of transport here. Some people may make the further inference that replication of this Dutch “cycling culture” is sufficient in itself to allow cycling to become a mainstream mode of transport.

Also worth noting is that just because driving is the dominant mode of transport in the UK, it does not follow that the UK has an equivalent “car culture” which is a part of being British. Certainly there are car and motorsport enthusiasts who make the car part of their identities, but this is hardly typical of the average person in the UK. I also occasionally see arguments that the use of cars as status symbols in the UK produces a culture of driving and works against the cause of cycling as a mode of transport. Whilst there are also people who spend a lot of money on cars which they see as status symbols, these are also the kind of people who will spend money on other conspicuously expensive items in exactly the same way. It is the display of having the means to buy the car which is important, not the car itself (or the watch, clothes, house, boat, etc.). Again, I don’t see this being a major factor in the dominance of driving as a mode of transport in the UK. This kind of behaviour can also be seen in The Netherlands. Just owning a car is not in itself much of an indicator of socio-economic status nowadays.

The truth is that The Netherlands has no cycling culture and the UK has no car culture. What both countries have is people who choose how to get around by picking the path of least resistance, based on their own experience. Whereas for British people choosing the car is usually the path of least resistance, for Dutch people choosing the bike is often the path of least resistance. This is not due to a difference of culture, but an result of the differences in the built environment.

Certainly, there are also additional non-infrastructural factors increasing the attractiveness of cycling in The Netherlands, such as the provisions organisations and businesses make for people travelling by bicycle, but these are a reaction to the transport choices people make, not the main reason they make them. This reaction serves to reinforce the effect of the built environment on transport choice, as it does in the UK.

The argument that The Netherlands has a particular cycling culture which we would need to somehow replicate here for cycling to become a mainstream mode of transport is at its best cargo cult thinking, and at its worst, acts as an excuse for inaction and a quiet acceptance of the status quo.

Infrastructure is the foundation of cycling as a mainstream mode of transport. Nothing else will stand up if that foundation is not there first.

Spending Tips

Last week the deputy prime minister announced something like £1.10 for every individual in the UK is to be spent on cycling per year for the next three years. I imagine that planners in Whitehall and the various local authority offices around the country are thinking how best to use this money to make the bicycle into accessible transportation for all. I thought I would compile some suggestions.

1. More car parking spaces

One of the major things which puts people off cycling is the fact that people on bikes have to mix with people in cars, which makes most people feel unsafe when using a bicycle. Spending money on providing more free car parking spaces will give people somewhere to put their cars, helping to reduce the numbers on the roads

2. Motivational advertising

People usually choose the path of least resistance when it comes to travel, both in the mode they choose and the route they take. A handful of advertisements on bus stops, television and radio should be sufficient to overcome this basic core component of human psychology.

3. Showers

When cycling amongst motor vehicles, people tend to want to minimise the speed differential between themselves and other types of vehicle. The fact that this can lead to sweating is a well known factor keeping people off bikes and the logical solution to this is earmark some cash for a fund which will enable employers, schools, pubs, restaurants, post offices, banks and retailers to provide shower facilities for those cycling to their premises.

4. Maintenance

Poorly maintained bikes are a big barrier to cycling, with many new bikes being used only a handful of times before before their owners, mindful of the wear and tear caused to bikes by actually using them consign their bikes to the shed, for no other reason than this.

5. Safety

Safety is a big concern for would-be bicycle users. Unfortunately the roads and the motor vehicles which use them are an unchangeable part of the environment, which we are as powerless to change as the tides or the natural processes leading to the continuous warming of the Earth’s climate. Thankfully we have two powerful solutions at our disposal, polystyrene hats and fluorescent waistcoats. When used together they completely solve al problems relating to safety.

6. Spread it around

Should significant sums of money be spent to significantly improve the experience of people travelling by bicycle on a single major route, or would the same resources be better spread much more evenly across the land? Whilst improving a single route to Dutch standards would significantly increase cycling participation and the safety of those on bikes in one area, it is far better to use the money for thousands of ASLs, sharrows and training places to help people cope with roads whose designs disregard their needs. Spread the money around so everyone benefits, much like pouring a bottle of Ribena into a reservoir.

True Story

When talking with some colleagues in the tea room, the topic of bad driving, and more specifically bad overtakes came up. After hearing a few stories, I shared a few of my own horror stories of close passes on national speed limit roads from a cycling perspective. After this, the topic of cycle helmets came up, so I dutifully explained that the reality of cycle helmets falls short of what the general public often imagines.

From across the room, a chap chimes in with a story from the days when he used to cycle in to work. He told jus that several years ago, he was riding his bicycle without lights, in the dark down an unlit country lane. He collided head-on with another chap on a bike without lights. Both were injured, the other chap quite badly so.

At the end of his story, he turned to us and said, “I bet he wishes he was wearing a helmet that day. I know I do.”

Personally, I’d have gone for lights.

All Quiet

Yesterday, for the first time in almost two years I seriously considered buying another bike. I have yet to decide whether or not I will buy (yet) another bike, but I discovered something about my relationship with cycling in the process.

More astute readers may have noticed that the pace of posts on this site has slowed down somewhat. During this quiet time, cycling has remained my main mode of transport and I cycle approximately 9 miles every weekday as part of my commute, in addition to running errands at the weekend. Despite this, I have not felt the inspiration to post much of anything, or to ride much beyond what I need to do to get around. However, since I started to seriously entertain the possibility of acquiring another bike I have been feeling the call of the pedals and the desire to blog once more.

A scene from this evening’s commute home

It strikes me that a big part of my enthusiasm for cycling (and blogging about cycling) stemmed from a near-constant series of acquisitions of bicycles and bicycle-related stuff in the quest for the ‘perfect’ set-up. Once I had a set-up which worked well for me, the quest was over, or at least it slowed down. Whilst my ideal set-up will naturally change over the course of my life, the significant amount of research, trial and error required to get to what I have now was what kept this blog regularly updated for as long as it was. The problem with having a set-up which works well for your needs is that there is little left to discover, nothing to be researched into meticulously for hours on end. Nothing to blog about.

This realisation led me to notice a pattern. For example, during the time the blog has been quiet, I spent quite a lot of time researching kitchen stand-mixers, intended mainly for the benefit of Ms C’s baking. I wanted to make sure we got the best one that I could also service myself, have good spares availability for years to come at the best price point. Similar to bicycles, there is a surprising amount of information, opinion and even tribalism (Kenwood vs KitchenAid discussions can get just as heated as any obscure bicycle forum thread) surrounding stand mixers. That peculiar world, and many others like it held my attention for much longer than I would have expected them to. Once the stand mixer had been chosen, I ended up learning about bread making, flours grains and a similar series of events occurred all over again.

I suspect that my inspiration to write about bicycles and bicycle-related issues will wax and wane over time as the set-up I have becomes more or less suited to the situations life throws my way. Perhaps the simplest solution would be to turn this blog into one which discusses whatever it is that I’m trying enthusiastically to perfect at any given time.

Transport and Delusions

Reading Beyond the Kerb’s open letter to the legal system got me thinking about the mass delusion we suffer from in the UK when it comes to driving a car. 

Musical ability is something which some people are blessed with. Some people are extremely accomplished musicians. Some people are competent singers. Some choose not to participate, but within them lies potential which could one day be nurtured. Some people are tone deaf.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with not being musical. Other than not being able to join a choir or an orchestra (or at least, not a good one) being tone deaf will not significantly diminish your life, bar you from a significant number of jobs or cause exceptional hardship to you, or your family.

Our collective delusion is thinking that driving a car in a public space is different.

Some people are extremely proficient and enthusiastic drivers. Plenty more are competent. Some do not drive, but would be able to do so safely with sufficient training. Some people will are not capable of driving in a consistently safe manner.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with falling into the latter category. What is wrong is a system which allows people who are incompetent to drive to gain a licence. A system which allows people who have demonstrated their inability to drive, to continue driving. A system which places the convenience of an individual driver above the safety of innocent third parties. A system which gives no justice to this whose lives are ended, or irrevocably changed, typically through no fault of their own.

It is understandable that when confronted with a list of injustices like those described on Beyond the Kerb, we feel incredibly angry about the sheer injustice of it. I know I do. 

However, I do not feel that imprisoning drivers who kill through incompetence rather than malice achieves a great deal. Drivers who are imprisoned seldom receive permanent driving bans. In fact, driving bans shorter than the term of the prison sentence are depressingly common. When a driver’s incompetence results in a death or maiming, the only just outcome is to stop them from driving, permanently. Naturally it follows that the testing and monitoring of drivers needs to be made fit for purpose as well, to prevent these tragedies before they happen.

Having said this, being banned from driving, or being unable to pass the test in the first place shouldn’t diminish your life. Other than being prevented from working in driving jobs, not being permitted to drive should not bar you from a significant number of jobs or cause exceptional hardship to you or your family.

The difficulty is that with a transport system in which the odds are so heavily stacked in favour of the private motorist, it seems exceptionally easy to weasel out of a driving ban on the grounds of ‘‘exceptional hardship.’ Subsidised car use, bicycle infrastructure which is non-existent and public transport has been left to decay for decades before the remainder was converted to dividend mines for private shareholders means it is easier to pretend that driving is something that all adults can and eventually will do to an adequate standard.

Until we tackle the systemic disadvantage which non-car travel has been placed at for decades in the UK, the delusion will continue and innocent third parties will continue to pay.

Transport Diversity

In the previous post, Transport Security, the link between energy security and transport was discussed along with the implications for the future here in the UK. One of the issues touched upon in that post was the importance of a diverse mixture of transport modes.

In transport as in nature, diversity is important. In agriculture, monoculture is the practice of growing a single, large and genetically (almost) uniform crop. This practice might be expected to provide certain benefits due to economies of scale, but it is not without its problems. A uniform crop has uniform susceptibility to disease, pests, weather conditions.  This makes the whole crop vulnerable to resilience problems when the crop is subjected to unforeseen external stresses. It is uniformly welcoming or unwelcoming to specific animal species, which can have numerous and varied unintended consequences. There are obvious parallels between the practice of agricultural monoculture and the transport monoculture we have allowed to develop in the UK.

In the UK, transport is currently dominated by the private car. It could even be said that this dominance has reached the point that the UK is a transport monoculture. This is compounded further by The Department for Transport’s own predictions that the next two decades’ growth in transport will further increase the total proportion of trips made by car. Cycle use is predicted to stagnate.

Predicted Growth 1As in agriculture, a transport monoculture is vulnerable because of its uniformity; in the case of our car monoculture significant vulnerabilities include uniform reliance on inefficient use of fuel and uniform reliance on inefficient use of space. A good example of when these vulnerabilities have been exposed include the refinery blockades for the former and the few weeks of snowfall the UK has seen in each of the past few years for the latter. Both of these types of events are examples of stresses on the UK transport system.

As in nature, a more diverse mixture of transport modes is more able to cope with stresses such as those discussed above. During a fuel shortage, modes which rely less on inefficient use of fuel such as bicycles, walking and public transport are in a good position to relieve some of the strain. During heavy snow, modes which use space more efficiently such as bicycles, walking and trains can more easily and quickly have sufficient space cleared to allow their safe passage. The same is true of freight. Diversity allows the weaknesses of a particular mode to be complemented by the strengths of another, and builds an element of much needed redundancy into the system.

These other modes are not without their own disadvantages and a transport mix which relies too much on trains or bicycles would be similarly (although perhaps less overall) vulnerable to unforeseen stresses. Whilst it can be tempting, when faced with ridiculous straw-man arguments, to suggest that the UK could manage perfectly well without cars, their continued availability compliments the vulnerability of bicycles to high winds or of trains to staff disputes.

Cars are only a problem at the moment because their near-total dominance of transport in the UK. Our road infrastructure is designed around them at the direct expense of the viability of walking and cycling. The public subsidy of car use leads to perverse economics which make local bus services economically inviable and allow road haulage to uncut rail freight in a manner which simply should not be possible. Increasing the diversity of the UK’s transport mix means directly addressing these problems. Road infrastructure should be designed around cycling, walking and motorised vehicles, not just motorised vehicles. Transport investment should include significant investment in rail rather than just motorised road transport and the external costs arising from motor vehicles should be shouldered directly by their users rather than shared by everyone.

By removing the perverse incentives strongly favouring motorised road transport in the forms of private car and road freight above all other modes we can more evenly spread the UK’s transport needs over a more diverse range of transport modes. This shift will increase the overall energy and space efficiency of transport in this country, currently dominated as it is by the most inefficient modes, as well as strengthening transport as a whole against the predicted and unpredicted stresses encountered the future.

Transport Security

Energy Security, according to Wikipedia, is “a term for an association between national security and the availability of natural resources for energy consumption. Access to cheap energy has become essential to the functioning of modern economies. However, the uneven distribution of energy supplies among countries has led to significant vulnerabilities.” Therefore, Transport Security can be thought of as a subset of energy security; the relationship between the essential role transport plays in the functioning of modern economies and the availability of the resources required by said transport. In 2005, transport accounted for approximately 35% of UK energy consumption.

The transport security of a country is dependent on several factors, including:

  • Transport mode mix
  • Transport infrastructure
  • Energy infrastructure
  • Energy prices & domestic resources
  • State intervention
  • Density of development

The UK’s transport is currently dominated by one mode; the private car. This domination is a result of several decades of car-favouring infrastructure design, preferential state investment in car infrastructure, state subsidy of the external costs arising from driving and low energy prices. These factors have enabled the private car to become the dominant mode of passenger transport in the UK, despite the significant inefficiency of the private car compared to other transport modes. These factors have had a significant effect the density and nature of both new residential and commercial developments and wreaked havoc on those which were constructed prior to the dominance of the private car. Building preferentially for the private car has also led to road freight becoming the dominant means of moving goods around in the UK (85% in 1998)

The continued decline in the UK’s North Sea oil production has led to it becoming a net importer of crude oil, and the price of fossil fuel-derived energy is set to continue rising. Changing the energy source of cars from burning fossil fuels to battery-electric is often mooted as a solution by both the motor lobby and the government, which has given generous subsidies to the manufacturers and buyers of electric cars. Whilst frequently mooted as a solution to the UK’s transport woes, electric cars have a number of the same problems as conventionally fuelled cars; inefficient use of space (especially in urban areas) detrimental effect on other transport modes, negative health effects to their operators and passengers arising from the sedentary lifestyle facilitated by car dependence and the death or injury of operators, passengers and third parties through improper use.

At present in the UK, electric cars also have a number of problems distinct from conventionally-fuelled cars; much of the UK’s electricity-generation infrastructure is fossil fuel-based and vulnerable to much the same pressures on price as conventionally-fuelled cars and at the time of writing, much of the UK’s electricity generating capacity is due to be retired in the next few years. Whilst there are advantages to burning fossil fuels in facilities away from large population centres rather than within them, the issue of the need to replace much of the UK’s electricity generating infrastructure in the near future (referred to as the ‘energy gap‘) is a major hurdle to shifting cars from their reliance on the inefficient use of fossil fuel-derived energy to the inefficient use of electrical energy. Put simply, a large scale renewal of existing electricity generating capacity taking place at the same time building the expansion in generating capacity required to shift much of the 35% of energy expenditure arising from transport to electricity would represent a significant challenge, especially considering the UK’s emissions targets.

This puts the UK at a cross-roads with regards to its future transport security. There are several realistic possibilities:

  1. Significantly expand, diversify and de-carbonise electricity generating capacity at the same time as replacing much of the existing, fossil fuel-based generation capacity. This will allow personal transport to shift from its current car-dependent form reliant on the inefficient use of direct fossil fuel-derived to a similar car-dependent form reliant on the inefficient use of (cheap) non-fossil fuel-derived electricity. This option does nothing to address the other problems arising from a car-dominated transport system (discussed above) and has the further disadvantage of not offerring any realistic prospect of significant future expansion, due to space constraints. A transport mix heavily dominated by a single mode is also less resilient to unforeseen future stresses.
  2. Replace the electricity generating capacity which is due for renewal without the significant expansion required for a move to electric cars whilst investing in infrastructure required to diversify the transport mix. This can be done by investing in infrastructure which favours more efficient modes of transport, such as walking, cycling and rail. This has the added advantage of addressing some of the issues arising from a car-dominated transport system (discussed above) and has the further advantage of offering a realistic prospect of significant future expansion, due to more efficient use of space. A more diverse transport mix is also more resilient to unforeseen future stresses.
  3. Replace the electricity generating capacity which is due for renewal without the significant expansion required for a move to electric cars, without investing in infrastructure required to diversify the transport mix. Transport will continue to be dominated by the private, fossil fuel-powered car for the foreseeable future. This option does nothing to address the problems arising from a (fossil fuel-powered) car-dominated transport system (discussed above) has the further disadvantage of not offerring any realistic prospect of significant future expansion, due to space constraints and leaves the majority of UK transport (and the economic activity reliant on it) dependent on imported fuels, vulnerable to price spikes and fluctuations in availability. As in option 1, a transport mix heavily reliant on a single mode is less resilient to unforeseen stresses than a diverse transport mix.

In the past, the UK’s North Sea oil reserves and established electricity generating capacity had given the UK the luxury of choosing whether to address the issue of its future transport security or do nothing. Naturally when given this choice, doing nothing is the easiest choice, even if it has significant drawbacks. In the next few years, the UK will be at the point where something has to be done as a matter of urgency. I just hope that we put the work in now to diversify both our transport and electricity generation mixes to ensure transport security in the long-term.

Richard Wellings and the IEA offer a radical alternative to fuel duty

A report from the right-wing pressure group the Institute for Economic Affairs (in which the author at first seems to struggle to set out a case for abolishing fuel duty) has attracted some interest on Twitter, in part because of its rather ‘free-market’ attitude to the value of human life:

“While the discussion may seem callous, it is the case that some road fatalities save the government significant sums of money, for example in future health and pension expenditure.”

The report states that contributions from fuel duty and something which the report refers to as a ‘road tax’ (presumably the author is referring to the emissions-based Vehicle Excise Duty) outstrip the government’s current spending on road building and maintenance. Presumably the reader is supposed to infer from this that road building and maintenance are the only external costs arising from motoring where as the reality is that motoring costs the taxpayer at least £9 billion per year more than it produces in tax receipts. Surprisingly  for someone who has apparently managed to acquire a PhD in transport and environmental policy, Richard Wellings seemed to be unaware of this shortfall when writing the report:

“Motoring taxes were being used to fund general public expenditure, primarily on the welfare state. Spending on roads was only equivalent to about a fifth of the motoring tax take and a significant proportion was devoted to ‘anti-car’ schemes.”

However despite the IEA seemingly not doing their research on the wider costs of motoring, I was rather encouraged by this:

“The privatisation of the road network would facilitate the abolition of fuel duty. The flotation of motorways and trunk roads would raise approximately £150 billion, which would be used to make large cuts in fuel duty. Government spending on transport would then be phased out, saving about £20 billion p.a. Finally, general tax revenues would increase markedly due to substantial efficiency gains, including much lower levels of congestion.”

Note here that the term ‘transport’ is used here to refer to ‘car transport.’ For a right-wing pressure group the IEA seem oddly determined to remove individual’s choice when it comes to transport mode.

Presumably, the problems arising after the privatisation of the railway, electricity, gas, water and telecommunications infrastructure and services are supposed to be seen by the reader as the exception rather than the rule when it comes to privatisation. The report only specifically mentions motorways and trunk roads, suggesting the author, like Minister for Roads and moron Mike Penning, is labouring under the false assumption that trunk roads (like motorways) are for the exclusive use of motorised vehicles. However, when I thought more about it, I got the feeling that there might be more to this report than meets the eye.

The big question is, why only mention motorways and trunk roads? Surely the private sector would be more dynamic and innovative than local authorities when it comes to local roads and surely the IEA wouldn’t support funding these roads through council tax. So let’s suppose we privatise the whole road network, carriageways, footways and all. Setting aside the wider issues of selling basically the entire public realm off to private companies, what would privatised road transport without fuel tax and no VED look like?

Carving it up

Traditionally privatisation in the UK has taken the form of a handful of monopolies dominating a different regions, and there is no reason to expect that the privatisation of the road network to be much different. However, it may be the case that some companies specialise in roads formerly controlled by local authorities, whilst different companies specialise in trunk roads, motorways or rural roads. In order to be charged, expect to have your movements tracked like never before.

Externalities

Naturally with the contribution towards covering some of the wider costs of motoring coming from VED and fuel tax gone, it would fall to the road operating companies to cover the external costs arising from their operations. Costs such as the hospitalisation and ongoing care costs arising both directly from road traffic collisions and indirectly from factors like air pollution and obesogenic environments would no-longer have to be paid for by taxpayers, which should be reflected by a significant reduction in the individual’s tax burden.

An interesting knock-on effect from this would be that motorway-style road designs in towns and cities which encourage dangerous driving behaviour, require different modes of travel to mix, or which produce high-levels of emissions in densely populated areas through inappropriately high speed limits would likely be phased out by road operating companies in favour of designs which reduce their costs. New designs would enforce lower speed limits in populated areas and separate out different vehicle types in order to drive down costs.

Similarly, whilst the criminal justice system at present is reluctant to hand a lifetime ban even to those who have clearly demonstrated they should never, ever drive again, under a privatised road system, road operating companies would seek to minimise their liability by either banning such drivers from the roads they operate or else charge such individuals for access at such a rate that it acts as a de facto ban.

Costs for motor traffic users

Following on from the banning (or de facto banning) of dangerous drivers, high risk drivers such as those who have been previously involved in crashes, new drivers, young drivers or old drivers would likely be charged at a higher rate. Certain journeys would require using parts of the network owned and operated by different companies, the result of which being that whilst some journeys may be relatively easy or cheap, others could become quite costly and difficult with the difference between the two being down to largely arbitrary factors. With the effective monopolies road operating companies would likely be given over certain routes (as described above) and light-touch regulation from the state, it is likely that costs to motor-traffic users would increase above inflation year-on-year, as is currently seen on the privatised rail network.

Naturally, road operating companies would seek to maximise profits by charging a higher rate for peak-time use, in addition to increasing peak-time road capacity by reducing speed limits, whilst rural users would likely face higher standard-rate charges due to the lack of economies-of-scale on the roads servicing more remote, sparsely-populated communities, but people are free to move home if they so choose. Bus services using multiple road operating companies’ roads may be more expensive than routes along roads operated by a single company.

Another advantage of privatised roads would be that the current blight of local authorities providing free on-street car parking for people who don’t work hard enough to own a house with a driveway will end, in favour of parking charges at the market rate.

Impact on road freight

A knock-on effect from higher peak-time pricing would be that it would be more economical for businesses to schedule deliveries during off-peak times. Large and heavy goods vehicles would naturally face much higher charges than smaller motor vehicles due to their increased wear on the road, disruptive effect on other traffic and significantly increased costs arising from death or injury. However, the advantage of this would be in restoring the competitiveness of rail freight; rail freight hubs would be viable in most towns and cities, with the last mile delivered by smaller delivery vehicles.

Costs for non-motorised users

The issue of non-motorised traffic (pedestrians, cyclists and horse-riders) is not touched upon in the report itself, but it is easy to infer how these types of traffic should be dealt with. Naturally, like motor traffic these traffic types will require extensive tracking for the purposes of charging. However, as we have expected the road operating companies to pay for the negative externalities arising from motorised traffic, it is only fitting that we reward them for the positive externalities of non-motorised traffic.

Positive externalities such as productivity benefits and reduced instances of sick leave to employers whose employees travel to work on foot or by cycle, reduced healthcare expenditure and reduced emissions and benefits to local businesses along walking and cycling routes should be used to offset the costs of negative externalities to road operating companies. The knock-on effect of this is that road designs which maximise the uptake of walking and cycling would be a worthwhile investment for road operating companies, as would be removing road designs which create conflict between road users. As they produce almost exclusively positive externalities, the direct cost to pedestrians and bicyclists would be zero, although tracking and monitoring would still be required to calculate the offset to negative externalities a road operating company had earned from its pedestrian and bicyclist users.

In conclusion

At first glance Richard Wellings’ report, ‘Time To Excise Fuel Duty?’ might appear to be overly simplistic drivel which overlooks the existence and value of pedestrians, cyclists, public transport users, children and most startlingly the value of human life, bringing shame on the very institution of the PhD. Taken at face value, it certainly pushes all the classic right-wing buttons; motorists portrayed as unfairly-taxed victims whose travel choice is essential for economic prosperity and producing absolutely no significant negative outcomes for third parties, those living in rural areas are portrayed as victims and pedestrians, bicyclists, public transport users and children effectively do not exist. Even human life is given a market rate. However, on second glance what the report is proposing would actually be radical subversion of current right-wing thinking on driving. Reading between the lines, Richard Wellings is proposing a model in which motorists pay a fair price for their externalities and car use is restrained in favour of modes which produce positive externalities – an extremely logical, sensible proposal disguised between the lines in a report from the IEA.

Travelling by train: The rules

Whilst I’m a big fan of the bicycle as the main means of everyday transport, for longer distances I prefer the train. The train makes a lot of sense, but it can be intimidating for newcomers. Therefore I decided to put together this handy guide to behaving on the train.

The golden rule: Think of the train as an extension of your home.

This is probably the core of almost all of the other rules. You’ve paid for this train journey, so you deserve to put your feet up and make yourself at home

Getting on and off the train:

1. The doors

When the train arrives and you wish to get on, it makes sense to position yourself square in front of the nearest set of train doors. Other passengers may wish to alight, but they’ll doubtless find your enthusiasm for the train they’re desperately trying to leave endearing.

2. Have a seat

Once you have managed to fight your way past the passengers getting off the train, make sure you sort out your bags and remove any extra layers of clothing you might wish to before you get settled into your seat. There’ll be no time for all that once you’re underway.

3. Luggage

Luggage is best kept within reach and thankfully each train seat comes with a seat-shaped table for storage of personal belongings. If you have a lot of luggage, it can be haphazardly tossed into the racks at the ends of the carriage as you get on the train.

During travel:

4. Sprawl

If the train becomes rather busy, make sure you have something to put on the seat-shaped table next to your seat, lest a newcomer to train travel come along and mistake the table for a spare seat.

5. Tables and four seater areas

The middle of some carriages have extra tables and seat-shaped tables for the lucky  lone traveller who gets there first.

6. Music and video

Some passengers may have forgotten to bring a personal music or video playing device along for the trip, or worse, be too poor to afford one of their own. They’ll doubtlessly be delighted should you choose to share your own music, or even better the sound from a video over a loudspeaker.

7. Going to the game

Travelling on the train to football matches is a popular way for many individuals who usually travel by car to spectate at sporting events and also indulge in alcohol. It is only natural that other passengers will be curious about your team allegiance. Loud, inappropriate bellowing will serve to enlighten your curious fellow travellers.

8. Progeny

Other train passengers may not have children of their own and will undoubtedly appreciate the opportunity to experience parenthood as you sit back and let your children climb over them and fight with each other in the aisles. Likewise, nothing helps drown out that nasty engine noise quite as well as four hours of a baby crying whilst being ignored by his or her parent.

9. Standing

Should your train run out of seating space, you may have to stand. To make the best of a bad situation, standing passengers squash into the ends of the carriages to form impromptu mosh pits. Standing in the aisles of the carriage is seen as a sign of weakness.

In the station:

10. Ticket barriers

Larger stations have automated ticket barriers, which have robbed many people of their jobs as station staff. naturally passengers are against this and in solidarity shun the many automated ticket barriers in favour of everyone entering and exiting the station through the same solitary staffed barrier which was intended for use by passengers with wheelchairs/crutches/prams/large luggage or bicycle. In addition to this, many passengers express their preference for human staff by asking this lone barrier attendant for timetabling information which is readily available on the many automated screens.

11. Smoking

Whilst smoking in stations is banned in the UK, but no-one minds really. Some of your fellow passengers may be too poor to afford smokes anymore and will doubtless appreciate your second hand smoke taking them back to a happier time.

I hope this guide can help those new to train travel to fit right in on Britain’s trains