To address the 2020 Covid19 outbreak government’s around the world locked down the entire economy in order to try and slow down the spread of the virus. In the UK, levels of car traffic dropped to their lowest since the 1950’s as people restricted car use to essential journeys only. Across the world greenhouse gas emissions for 2020 dropped by 7%, the first recorded drop since knowledge of the role greenhouse gases play in driving human induced climate change came to international attention. Most of that drop in emissions was due to a reduction in road traffic during the lockdown. In cities all around the world air quality radically improved due to the fumes that were no longer being pumped out of people’s cars.
According to the World Health Organisation, as of 23 February 2023 nearly 7 million people have died due to Covid19 since the outbreak began. Globally, around 1.3 million people die every year from car accidents, and some 350,000 people a year die due to the air pollution from car exhausts. All told, during the same time as the Covid19 outbreak, some 5 million people have died due to car accidents and pollution from cars. Deaths due to cars are not just an isolated pandemic, they are happening every day, every month, every year, and will continue to happen as long as cars are flooding our streets and making them unsafe and the air toxic to breathe.
In addition, in 2018 alone some 8.7 million people died from the burning of greenhouse gases, and year on year this death toll accumulates. But this is the least of our problems, since human induced climate change from the burning of fossil fuels also threaten the future of the entire human race, as well as the near term viability of much of life on earth.
So given all of that, my question is this: If we can lock down the entire economy as a result of Covid19 to save lives, why aren’t we locking down our cars to save lives? This is even more telling when you consider that most car journeys are non-essential. That is, we don’t actually need to use the car.
Cars are killers. They kill by striking people, they kill by polluting the air, and they kill by poisoning the climate and making it unfit for life on earth. And all this for mostly non-essential journeys?
I am asking groups up and down the country to campaign on this issue, and to spread the word. We need to generate a strong social stigma against using cars for non-essential journeys. If people are willing to take strong action to save lives on Covid19, then they should be willing to lock down their cars to save lives too. I want to encourage groups to use the Covid19 narratives to stimulate thinking on this issue across the population. For that reason, I have generated some simple posters below to help inspire groups with the messaging to tackle this car-mad culture head on. I’m not a graphic designer, so these posters are very basic, and are there for inspiration, rather than as a final product, though I am intending to use them for a stickering campaign in my own city this year.
Act responsibly, restrict your car to essential journeys only, and join the car-free revolution. Let’s make our towns and cities wellsprings of life and vitality and not the aggressive nightmare of traffic, fumes and noise that we have today.