As governments confront the climate change crisis, how we travel has become a pressing ethical, environmental and social issue in the 21st century (Cahill, 2007). Carbon emissions from transport are a significant and growing global problem and transport policy is being forced to confront the fact that a transport system based on the fast diminishing supply of oil needs fundamental rethinking.
The industrial revolution that transformed human life and aspirations has, in its successive phases, utilised different means of transportation, from the canals of the 18th century to the jet engines of today. Transport modes are vital for the functioning and development of both the economy and society. Globalisation is predicated on transport and speed of movement, making transportation an integral part of the world economy. This is vividly illustrated from time to time when dissident groups resort to direct action, whether French fishermen blockading cross-Channel ports, French farmers halting motorway traffic or British lorry drivers protesting against the price of fuel by blockading oil refineries.
In the 20th century motor cars progressed from their early days as a hobby for the rich to become the transport of choice for the majority in rich societies, thus weakening and eroding the ethos and practices of public transport. The people’s car offering ‘mobility for all’, whether that be the Model T Ford or the Volkswagen or most recently the Indian Nano, became emblematic of consumer capitalism, enabling an identification of man/woman with machine, a vehicle which told the world about oneself in much the same way as one’s choice of clothes did.
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