Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

'Need for Speed' at the Royal College of Art

  • Comment

There was a bizarre silence on the problems of air and land contamination and noise pollution currently associated with fast motorised transport at the Need for Speed debate last week. Even the normally vociferous Mayer Hillman only referred to the environmental implications at the tail-end of his presentation, reminding the audience that a reduction in the use of fossil fuels of 90 per cent has got to be achieved as soon as possible in order to avoid ecological calamity.

Indeed, Austin Williams, director of the Transport Research Group and AJ technical and practice editor, suggested that 'the message . . . that we should be mindful of the impact we have on future generations' represented a 'fear of aspiration . . . of looking to the future'.

He defended, without qualification, the right of each individual to travel at speed, on the grounds that 'speed increases our private time . . . speed lets you get there quicker'.

He appeared to disregard Hillman's application of the energy and equity concept, articulated by Ivan Illich, to point out that the necessary correlation of some people travelling faster is always a forced reduction in the speed of movement available to other people. In the case of children, this usually means a lack of any independent mobility at all.

In spite of Peter Stevens' thesis that increased speed of mobility is the result of a natural process of human development from walking and running to the horse, steam engine, internal combustion engine, jet engine and rocket, it seems an incontrovertible fact that the faster the means of transport, the more damage it wreaks on the planet and so, ultimately, to the quality and sustainability of human life.

Stevens, a McLaren Formula 1 designer, suggests that our compulsion to move faster is due to a deep-seated fear of losing time, because 'our time on earth is short'; but it is also due to the desire to travel ever greater distances to suit living patterns which, either by force of circumstance or by choice, have become so geographically dispersed that we must ask whether they are really viable.As Hillman points out, we now travel six times as many miles as 50 years ago and that figure is expected to double again within the next 20 years.

According to Pedestrians' Association president Terence Bendixson, the imperative for speed has effectively stunted the car industry by imposing a uniformity determined by aerodynamics.

He suggests there will be vast potential for designers if manufacturers are forced by reductions in speed limits to move away from the production of the fast car in favour of the 'fun car'.

He proposes a move towards 'freedom to live, to love and dance in the streets': surely a better use of our limited time on earth than the frantic and destructive propulsion from A to B.

The Need for Speed debate at the Royal College of Art was organised by the Transport Research Group in association with the Institute of Ideas.

vital statistics

A study of 21,000 school children in California has revealed that those working in the most natural daylight progress 20 per cent faster on maths tests and 26 per cent faster on reading tests than those with least light.

Male graduates working as architects can expect to earn an average of £22,349 a year during their working life compared with £17,188 for women, according to Warwick University. The average across all professions was £24,159 and £18,071 for men and women respectively. Men working in law and politics can expect to earn £28,227.

The number of planning applications for housing developments from the private sector was 6 per cent lower per month this year than last, according to figures from the National House-Building Council. The biggest fall was in the North East, down by 41 per cent, and the biggest increase was in Wales, up by 47 per cent.

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.