Why we must ban car advertising and sponsorship as was done with tobacco


Powersliding a sports car through a rain-slick city at night might seem like an unrealistic activity that most car owners won’t participate in, but marketers count on the excitement generated by this imagery to influence consumer decisions. These marketers are seeking those consumers most driven by “a need for speed.”

These are called ‘Hedonistic Considerations’.

How often do we see a car that solely occupies space in an advert? It is a fantasy world that deceives not only the driver but demands that we all give way to that fantasy by prioritising traffic flow.

The anger at this disconnect between fantasy and reality materialises on the ground as projected ‘road rage’ onto the perceived or socially constructed ‘weakness’ of pedestrians and cyclists.

Nothing brings a driver crashing down to reality more than a pedestrian who walks faster or a cyclist who weaves ahead.


Another technique for selling cars is called ‘Utilitarian Considerations’. Focusing on prevention goals, the advertiser identifies a painful experience and then elicits feelings of safety and security. Their aim is to make the individual feel like they are a smart, responsible consumer.

‘Other types of car commercials might showcase families taking advantage of safety features, like anti-lock breaks, rear-view cameras, and sensors that alert them when other cars come too close.’

The alternative reality to ‘safety’ ‘smart’ and ‘responsible’?

 ‘Travelling in a car is like being trapped in a pollution box,’ says Dr Barratt, Kings College


Inactivity has been linked to diabetes type 2 and new analysis by Diabetes UK has revealed that the number of diabetes-related amputations in England has now reached an all-time high of 20 a day. Car drivers are much more likely to be inactive.


Are cars the new tobacco? asked a paper published in the Journal of Public Heath in June 2011:

Private cars cause significant health harm. The impacts include physical inactivity, obesity, death and injury from crashes, cardio-respiratory disease from air pollution, noise, community severance and climate change. The car lobby resists measures that would restrict car use, using tactics similar to the tobacco industry. Decisions about location and design of neighbourhoods have created environments that reinforce and reflect car dependence. Car ownership and use has greatly increased in recent decades and there is little public support for measures that would reduce this.’


So how would a car advertising and sponsorship ban work? Here, as an example, I have taken the Tobacco Advertising Directive and replaced tobacco and smoker with car and driver

Ban on cross-border tobacco advertising and sponsorship

 Tobacco advertising increases consumption in several ways, most importantly by encouraging children or young adults to start smoking. It also encourages smokers to increase consumption, reduces smokers’ motivation to quit, encourages former smokers to resume and creates an environment in which tobacco use is seen as familiar and acceptable and the warnings about its health are undermined.

The Tobacco Advertising Directive (2003/33/EC) has an EU wide ban on cross-border tobacco advertising and sponsorship in the media other than television. The ban covers print media, radio, internet and sponsorship of events involving several Member States, such as the Olympic games and Formula One races. Free distribution of tobacco is banned in such events. The ban covers advertising and sponsorship with the aim or direct or indirect effect of promoting a tobacco product.

Ban on cross-border car advertising and sponsorship

 Car advertising increases consumption in several ways, most importantly by encouraging children or young adults to start driving. It also encourages drivers to increase car use, reduces drivers’ motivation to quit, encourages former drivers to resume and creates an environment in which car use is seen as familiar and acceptable and the warnings about its health are undermined.

The Car Advertising Directive (2017/102/EC) has an EU wide ban on cross-border car advertising and sponsorship in the media other than television. The ban covers print media, radio, internet and sponsorship of events involving several Member States, such as the Olympic games and Formula One races. Free distribution of car related products are banned in such events. The ban covers advertising and sponsorship with the aim or direct or indirect effect of promoting a car product.

This is an opener to further debate on campaigning for a cross border car advertising and sponsorship ban. Please feel free to comment here or on twitter. My handle is @Privatecarfree

The story of a re-wilded road in the heart of London

Sometimes it seems that road expansion is an inevitable consequence of our insatiable car addiction. The last 100 years has witnessed the erosion of nature on an unimaginable scale. Tarmac to satisfy the wallets of the motor industry has been unremitting and overwhelming. What is the biggest human threat to nature? a new report suggests it is in fact road-building.

Last November I stumbled on Cantrell Road, whilst on a foraging walk at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park. It was a revelation; a road that had been reclaimed. I photographed teasels and briar rose and was amazed at how much it looked like the South Downs in Sussex.

So this Spring I returned and Dan Hall kindly sourced this original photo. It is a bit obscure but Cantrell Road appears on the right of the photo. It was home to some seven car scrap yards, mostly illegal. It was given to the Friends of Tower hamlets cemetery in conjunction with the Derelict Land Grant.

cantrell road

Cantrell Road seen here on the right. London Metropolitan Archive

The ground was contaminated with oil and metal pollutants so part of the tarmac was removed and the rest was bashed to provide drainage. Because of the contaminants, the surface was raised with a mixture of sand, chalk and overlayed with 2cm of limestone dust. The low fertility was deliberate, aiming to encourage native wild plants that would compliment the rich woodland flora of the Cemetery.

By May 2007 it was ready for planting and there was a wet serendipity which allowed the wild flower seed to flourish.


Cantrell Road, Tower Hamlets London Spring 2017

A few years later clusters of shrubs, a hedge and wild roses were planted to stop quad bikes laying claim to the new environment. Cultivating a mosaic of plants and reigning in thuggish plants that would dominate if unhindered, has been central to creating a vibrant biodiversity.


Guelder Rose

Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery have succeeded in making this area an educational oasis for foraging and food sustainability in one of London’s green desert boroughs.


Wild Rocket


Chinese Mugwort

‘Sous les paves, la plage!’ (under the tarmac is the beach!) was the slogan of the May 1968 events in Paris. 30cm under our roads IS the earth. Seeds can lie dormant in the soil for years, waiting for the right conditions to emerge in all their life-giving beauty.


Chalk ‘South Downs’ low fertility to encourage wild plants


Car-free public space is essential for public health; giving children and adults alike the freedom to roam and play


We need streets fit for humans

We want streets where children and adults alike have the freedom to roam on bike or on foot without the fear of intimidation, injury or being killed by motor vehicles.

We want streets where our children can play. Designated residential play streets have been replaced by dangerous rat-running traffic and parked cars.

I sometimes look around in our villages, towns and cities and think we live in a pied piper world where children have been disappeared from our streets, locked away in brick or metal boxes.

We want streets where our children can thrive, become active, independent and street wise. We need to release children from the bondage of being driven.

4 out of 10 children are now obese or overweight as a result of being inactive. And now children are being kept indoors when air pollution hits the highest levels.

We need 3 billion per year of dedicated funding to build a UK wide, traffic-free, protected cycle network so that all UK citizens, whatever their ability, can benefit from being active. Whether cycling to school, to work, to the shops or visiting friends and family.

I know Jeremy Corbyn cares about the health and well-being of UK citizens.

No one should be forced into ill health because they cannot cycle or walk safely in their neighbourhood. Or even breathe!

Unstructured play helps us understand who we are.

Freedom to roam helps us discover what makes us happy.

Reclaiming public space builds self-esteem by connecting us to our fellow citizens and our environment.

An impassioned plea for politicians to end ‘suicidal’ road expansion that is driving us off a climate change cliff


All too often emissions from motor vehicles are looked at in isolation. But if we don’t consider all aspects of manufacture, use and infrastructure, we are not fully taking into account the immense burden our car addiction has on our planet.

Transport represents the fastest growing source of CO2, the ‘greenhouse gas’ that traps heat in the planet’s atmosphere and causes global warming. In 2010, CO2 from transport accounted for 23 per cent of the world’s total emissions, and could double by 2050, increasing more rapidly than any other sector.

As this graph from the European Environment Agency shows, CO2 emissions are falling in most other sectors, by 24 per cent between 1990 and 2014, BUT road transport emissions rose by 17%.graph

Cars are a major contributor

If we switched all motorised road transport to electric or hydrogen, we would blow the carbon budget just on manufacturing the vehicles This is why we must minimise motor vehicles to just essential traffic in order to meet the global reductions in CO2 emissions set by the Paris Climate conference.

There are over 1.2 billion motorised vehicles in the world today, and the number is projected to double by 2030. This would be an environmental catastrophe.

We have to decline the automobile industry and redeploy labour towards sustainable transport solutions, such as trams and rail. We must urgently invest in building safe, accessible cycle lanes and walking networks, rather than constantly focusing on building roads and car parks.

Shattering effect of roads on nature


All roads erase nature but our current density has ‘sliced and diced Earth’s ecosystems into some 600,000 pieces. More than half of these are less than 1 square kilometre in size. Only 7% of the fragments are more than 100 square km.’

The impact of roads extends far beyond the roads themselves…..enabling forest destruction, pollution, the splintering of animal populations and the introduction of deadly pests. New roads also pave the way to further exploitation by humans, such as poaching or mining, and new infrastructure.

The last remaining large roadless areas are rainforests in the Amazon and Indonesia and the tundra and forests in the north of Russia and Canada. Virtually all of western Europe, the eastern US and Japan have no areas at all that are unaffected by roads. The scientists considered that land up to a kilometre on each side of a road was affected, which they believe is a conservative estimate.

The length of the world’s roads is projected to increase by more than 60% by 2050, say the researchers, but only about 5% of the roadless areas currently have any legal protection, according to the new work published in the journal Science.” – Damian Carrington

New roads induce more car use, more car production and then the call for even more roads when there is inevitably more congestion. It is a never ending cycle of destruction and more emissions.

‘However the inverse effect, or “reduced demand”, is also true  So the closure of a road or reduction in its capacity (e.g. reducing the number of available lanes) will result in the adjustment of traveller behaviour to compensate.’


‘Every time any politician says anything like “we have to help drivers,” they have it wrong. suicidally wrong.’

‘We have to think about how to efficiently move millions of people, not individuals—and not cars. We have to do this in a way that has the smallest impact on the environment.’ – Tricia Wood

There is hope. In a complete reversal, Cantrell Road in Tower Hamlets, London has been re-wilded, providing sustainable drainage, wild foods and re-forestation.


Cement production has a heavy carbon footprint: Run-off from tarmac increases the risk of flooding


The cement industry is one of the primary producers of carbon dioxide. Concrete causes damage to the most fertile layer of the earth, the topsoil. Concrete is used to create hard surfaces like roads and car parks which contribute to surface runoff that may cause soil erosion, water pollution and flooding.

London faces a major risk of flooding. London’s floods are caused by a mixture of river processes, tidal flooding and drains/sewers unable to cope with the volume of water. This risk is likely to increase in the future as a result of climate change, rising sea levels and an increase in building in the Thames Gateway. Existing defences are solid in some parts but elsewhere they struggle to contain the floods. These defences will be tested even more in the future.’

‘Plastic soup’ pollution from motor traffic tyres is a major pollutant of water


Motor traffic tyres are made from 60% plastic derivative. Particulates produced from tyre wear are washed down the drains into the water system.  We must protect water supplies from toxic pollution. Clean, drinkable water is essential to sustaining life and will become an even more precious resource in a more challenging climate.

Cycling and walking can help us mitigate against and adapt to climate change


Transport for London has identified 4.3  million car journeys per day in London that could be cycled or walked. Cities around the world are making similar calculations to reduce emissions and use existing roads more efficiently.  “Cities are responsible for the majority of our harmful greenhouse gases [70%]. But they are also places where the greatest efficiencies can be made.”

Individuals cycling and walking move themselves, this is literally self-empowerment for a more sustainable future. A person walking or cycling uses less road space and there is the additional boon of increased fitness and health.

Space efficient walking, cycling and public transport need to be part of a wider debate to mitigate and adapt to climate change.


Why our corporate, top down culture doesn’t get car-free days

In September 2015 I went on an adventure. I boarded a train at St Pancras for Gare du Nord in Paris to meet an unknown twitter contact. I had no idea what he looked like but knew that we both shared a passion for a less polluted and less car dominated world. He was my charming guide for the car-free day in Paris leading up to COP21.


I have imagination unbounded. But nothing I imagined could compare with experiencing and sharing the joy of Parisians reclaiming their city centre. This was not an organised event, but an act of generosity on the part of Mayor Anne Hildago, who trusted her citizens to reclaim their public space in whatever way they liked.

Jeanette Sadik-khan recently said that people are ‘hungry for space and play’ that ‘we just need to follow the people’ and ‘get the obstacles out of their way’.

Unstructured play helps us understand who we are. Freedom to roam helps us discover what makes us happy. Reclaiming our public space builds self-esteem by connecting us to our fellow citizens and our city.

Will Norman says the Mayor of London does not want car-free days as London already has some 42 existing ‘events’. It all sounds very rational and costed, like a business case  but completely misses the point.

When everything in your city becomes monetised from the gold bricks to the ‘events’ that are just marketing vehicles to sell you more stuff, your city loses its soul. Putting people before business on their own streets gives them back autonomy and ownership of their own city.

This is culture change.

How do we get more people cycling and walking? Not the ‘nag factor’ but by opening the gateway to a car-free London, so they experience for themselves the freedom to roam and play.


Living Streets Walking Summit March 18th 2017

C7WSEauXUAEmwb-On March 18th we gathered for the sold out Living Streets Walking Summit. This was held at the corporate Bloomberg  Offices in Finsbury Square but was very much a grassroots event.

The big coup was Jeanette Sadik-Khan, former Transport Commissioner to Mayor Bloomberg, who took the floor alongside Deputy Mayor for Transport Val Shawcross and newly appointed Walking and Cycling Commissioner Will Norman.

Jeanette set the scene by making grassroots campaigning central to her talk:  ‘Advocacy creates the political space for radical policy and action’ she proclaimed, adding that there is a ‘great hunger for space and play’ in our cities; we just need to ‘follow the people’ and ‘get obstacles out of their way’.

Her experimental approach in New York with paint, cheap beach chairs and temporary road blocks and cycle lanes, is still inspiring cities around the world.

Val Shawcross followed, setting out the Healthy Streets approach to making London a healthier, more beautiful and liveable city. Val urged campaigners to ‘engage with your local councils’ by inserting practical ideas into prospective councillors manifestos for the coming local elections in May 2018. She believes campaigning makes a difference; it is not always immediate but it  does shape politicians views.

It was a shame that Val and Will did not stay for the afternoon session. Riccardo Marini of Gehl Architects gave a passionate plea for ‘creating a happy city’ by putting ‘people not business first’ He believes data and evidence should be qualitative as well as quantitative; reflecting human-scale cities where people not cars are central to planning.

Tompion Platt, Head of Policy and Communications. echoed that sentiment when he set out Living Streets blueprint for change  ‘Walking Cities; designed around people, not cars.’

Morag Rose, from Manchester, was the inspiring winner of Living Streets Charles Maher award for her Loiterers Resistance Movement. ‘This is for everyone who walks in a wobbly mischievous manner ….access for disabled people must be central to all design’

However it was The President of Living Streets who made the most prescient comment when he talked about releasing children from the ‘bondage of being driven’.