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Katherine Shonfield

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According to a UNICEF report published last week, British children are some of the safest in the world. Coupled with the reduction of deaths of children on our roads during the 1990s this is, on the face of it, the best argument in favour of unsustainable, stretched-out cities and the security of the car you could hope for.

What opposing claims can anyone make who cares about the impact of car dependency on the future of the environment?

The recent cock-up by the medical profession et al over the massive loss of faith in the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) is how not to do it. Some evidence emerged that the vaccine caused autism. People demanded single vaccines. The government withdrew all single vaccines in an ill-judged attempt to force the issue. Result: substantial numbers of parents stopped all immunisation.

The lesson of MMR is that strong-arm tactics do not work anymore. The reason is that there is no faith in the idea of public good: this was the true destruction of the notion of society that Margaret Thatcher achieved. The only faith held in common is individual faith in individual good, accompanied by a growing conviction that when public good is invoked, some private harm is imminent.

So immediate, practical, easier and cheaper alternatives are the only hope to counter car use.

The Greenpeace school bus is a good place to start. Parents take turns to lead a walking 'bus' to local primary schools: children are collected from their homes within a neighbourhood to join other children walking to school en masse in the 'bus'.

Among other advantages, the school run is reduced to a health-giving constitutional.

Once pedestrian presence on the streets is perceived convivial, safe, time-saving and a hell of a lot more fun for them personally, people will use their cars less. Not a moment before.

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