Gaslight: Cycle lanes, zebra crossings, trees and filtered rat-runs cause air pollution and congestion

Gaslight is a 1944 film based on the 1938 play by Patrick Hamilton. The protagonist is a homicidal jewel thief. When his wife unwittingly discovers his true identity, he engages in a manipulative campaign to undermine her ability to trust her senses. The ultimate aim is to convince her that she is going insane.

The flickering of the Gaslight is used as a metaphor for the trickery of the light he employs.

One technique he uses is to accuse her of stealing valuables, deflecting from his own crimes. This is classic bully behaviour, projecting their own shortcomings onto their targets. It’s the blame/shame game.

So how does this play out in the politics of air pollution and congestion?

Cycle lane lunacy! cries The Daily Mail, causing gridlock and air pollution.

Pedestrians are impeding the flow of motor traffic causing air pollution and congestion

Making rat-runs access only will send congestion and pollution into other areas

And finally those awful pollution machines, trees!

Here the Mayor of Paris Anne Hildago calls it out 


Which mode of traffic is most responsible for London’s air pollution crisis?

Modern diesel cars produce 10 times more toxic air pollution than heavy trucks and buses, new European data has revealed. Transport for London research had already established in 2015 that some small dieselgate cars producing more toxic emissions than a bus or HGV.

However over the Christmas period TFL waived the Congestion Charge in a very high air pollution spike. Surely the connection between road pricing and air pollution is established?

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan says he does not have the powers to ban diesel as many other cities have done. However he has said he would like to have more car free days. Why not have a car free Sunday breathing day in our city centre?

Corporate fascism and the car


I was inspired to write this blog by a driverless car advocate who wrote on twitter that a robot might make a better Prime Minister.

The rise of fascism in the 1930s was supported by the avantgarde movement called Futurism. It emphasised speed, technology, youth, and violence, and objects such as the car, the aeroplane, and the industrial city. The autonomous pedestrian and cyclist quickly became an irritation in the march towards futuristic progress.

It was Benito Mussolini who first favoured the elimination of autonomy in favour of corporatism. The advent of fascism welcomed and incorporated mass production of cars. Social Darwinism meant abandoning democracy, weeding out the ‘weak’ and promoting the interests of ‘successful’ businessmen, like the automobile moguls. For the fascists the superior individual drove a car and at speed, dominating public space. Mussolini was often warned, even by those in his own party, about his reckless speeding in his Alfa Romeo.  

Hitler built roads for war and on the backs of slave labour. Almost a quarter of the German work force was slave labour, often from camps for ‘undesirables’ such as homeless, ethnic minorities, homosexuals, political dissidents, communists, Jews or conquered people such as Poles and Slavs.

Unscrupulous car manufacturers like Fordwerke, a subsidiary of the ford Motor company employed slave labour. Meanwhile Henry Ford and General Motors helped mobilise the Third Reich.

It is believed that 4 out of every 5 workers at Volkswagen plants during the war were slave labourers. Ferdinand Porsche was rumoured to have requested slave labourers directly from Auschwitz via Himmler. Recently a Russian Oligarch bought Hitler’s Mercedes.

Fast forward to 2016 when Fascism has once again raised its ugly head. Not surprisingly cars are at the heart of their rhetoric. Nigel Farage wants to do business with German car manufacturers post Brexit. Um?


Tesla has been keen to come to the table following Trumps shock victory with  a ‘surprising alignment of interests with the new presidential administration’ says Adam Jonas, Morgan Stanley’s lead auto analyst. No surprise here if we look at car manufacturers cosy relationship with past fascist administrations.

Elon Musk and Tesla are  part of a wider corporate drive to dominate streets with driverless cars that includes Siemens with its own chilling Nazi past. The military is also a big supporter of driverless technology.

The post-truth irony is the industry calling a driverless car ‘autonomous’ when of course it is anti-autonomous.  Driverless ‘mobile couch potatoes’ are the ultimate in dependency on totalitarian corporations, dominating public space.

New driverless technology is just the same business model in a new format. There is no democracy of public space and it favours corporations over individual freedom to roam. Dieselgate has shown how easy it is for the automobile industry to sneak in software that serves the corporations at the cost of the public (Volkswagen again). Air pollution is forcing children out of ‘unsafe’ polluted playgrounds. Will we end up in a Pied Piper world where children have been disappeared entirely from our outside public space ?

Robot driverless advocates want a simple world that is based on predictable algorithms. This is epistemic arrogance: rare and improbable events occur much more than we dare think. We live in an unpredictable world. We do not have a god-like control over nature. And humans that are creative and emotional are inherently unpredictable.

The Alt-right like Trump denigrate women, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities. Their simple version of the truth may make them feel in control in an out of control world.



The Black Swan is Climate Change, unpredictable and dark; corporate globalisation has brought us to the edge of extinction. Using a car whether driverless electric hydrogen petrol or diesel is bad for the environment and global warming.  That truth may not generate money for corporations but it could help save us?

And to the driverless car advocate that would rather have a robot as a Prime Minister, May I suggest that Government is already run by corporate investment algorithms?







Mission 2017

There was a moment in 2016, just after Donald Trump was declared the next President of US, that the pieces of the jigsaw started to fall into place for me. Trump declared the first thing he wanted to do was to build a wall along the Mexican border and this map appeared on my twitter feed.


It is an incredible injustice that the nations who have contributed the least to man-made global warming will be impacted the most. If global warming continues unabated, the nations marked red will experience increasing deterioration in their environments, with unbearable temperatures, water scarcity and food shortages. This will propel mass migration on an unimaginable scale from densely populated areas towards the green marked nations. That Donald Trump wants to build a wall to keep them out, whilst encouraging production of carbon emissions, is chilling.

The shocking rise in fascism, I believe, is being used to socially engineer a lack of empathy or othering. This is a pre-meditated attempt to justify the closing of borders to those fleeing uninhabitable land.

We face an unprecedented challenge in 2017. De carbonise the West or unscrupulous corporations will continue their march towards catastrophic, profit-driven global warming. This will require a massive cultural shift to sustainable living. Voting with our individual consumer feet has never been more vital.

For most U.S. households, the single most important action to reduce their carbon footprint is driving less. By walking or biking to the destination rather than driving, not only is a person going to save money on petrol, but they will be burning less fuel and releasing fewer emissions into the atmosphere.

Here is a link to a carbon calculator which will help assess your current lifestyle

These are some of the things that I believe will help transition to sustainable living. I have pledged not to fly because it is so damaging.

  • Minimise motorised traffic
  • Prioritise food security, locally sourced goods, low air and road miles
  • More economical use of Land and public space away from car use
  • Support Renewable sources of energy and conservation of energy, change your energy supplier to Good Energy
  • NHS focussing more on prevention of illness
  • Pay people not to consume, aviation, car use, buying stuff
  • Basic income
  • Carbon accounting, carbon tax
  • Voting with our consumer feet
  • Reduce meat consumption, eat local




Post-truth era and the automobile industry

Clean Diesel, as we all know, probably one of the biggest lies


Zero Emission Electric Vehicles


Frequently used, post-truth convenience,  by Transport for London, Government and automobile industry.

‘The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld the complaints, saying the ad gave the impression that the entire production, use and disposal of the vehicle would not produce any emissions or have a detrimental effect on the environment’.

‘Industry overseer, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that a press ad for BMW’s concept ActiveE electric vehicle was misleading as it claimed the car produces ‘0% emissions’. The ad which read that the car offers ‘electrifying performance and zero CO2 emissions when driving’ broke advertising rules relating to the substantiation and environmental claims.While the carmaker argued that the car produces no tailpipe emissions, its reliance on electricity means that the car is still likely to be recharged from the National Grid, where most of the power is produced from fossil fuels.’

‘People friendly’ driverless cars (not unless you are a robot too)


Truth: There is no such thing as a clean motor vehicle. Brake, tyre, road wear produce lethal PM2.5. There is no safe level of PM2.5. We need to minimise motor traffic.




Pedestrians are like air, cyclists are as water, motor vehicles are rocks that block the system

When Transport for London says it wants to maintain traffic flow, what it really means is it wants to maintain motor traffic flow.Today what I would like to discuss in this blog is something rather different, fluidity rather than flow.

Pedestrians move like air

If we imagine the pedestrian as a dancer, the movement is light and free. Their sensitivity to their surroundings engenders subtle interaction on the street. Colour, shape, texture, smell, sound  and even taste are experienced like a breeze. Interaction with fellow pedestrians is highly nuanced; smiles, frowns, a small flirt or a look that is a window on a troubled soul. We speak sometimes and friendships can blossom from a single greeting. We are close enough to care about our fellow humans but sometimes we have somewhere to go. Or we are lost in our own thoughts.

We don’t want to touch unless invited. Crowding can be an overwhelming uninvited intimacy. In large numbers there can also be a stampede effect or the fear of it.

We inhabit our space in a most human way. Given  space, time and beauty we are closest to our human potential.

Cyclists are as water

To mount a bike feels like an adventure. Maybe we had our first experience of real independence as a child riding a bicycle. We glide and weave as if a force of nature, endorphins coursing through our blood. We are aware of our skilful,  graceful fluidity. Our senses are keener, heightened to react to the speed we are pursuing. We don’t want our stream of consciousness broken. We merge with our machine in acrobatic delight, a tributary of camaraderie in our joint pursuit.

But then something jars. Our balance is tested and we are painfully aware of how we can be thrown off course. We are human after all.

Motor Vehicles are rocks that block the system 

When the car door slams shut, we are encased in a boulder of our own making. It has its own momentum, hurtling with force at its ultimate destination. We are the bulk that joins the heaving, convulsive mass. Jutting jaw thrusts against jutting jaw, grinding through the streets in an avalanche of metal. Are we human or machine? We don’t know, the rock has blunted our senses.




River Ching

River Ching

Why does the right to drive your diesel or any other car always trump the right to life?


OK so I’ve just returned from City Hall where the Environment Committee invited Shirley Rodrigues, Deputy Mayor for the Environment and Energy and Elliot Treharne, Policy and Programmes manager (Air Quality and Hydrogen) to discuss the decision by Paris, Athens, Madrid and Mexico City to ban diesel vehicles in their cities by 2025.

The Mayor acknowledges we have a public Health emergency but in the interests of ‘fairness’ doesn’t want to penalise those who bought diesel vehicles in good faith. So these people need time and money from Government to switch and can carry on buying and driving Diesel Euro 6 even though also highly polluting.

Meanwhile the ‘fairness’ of Londoners dying in their thousands, of children having their health permanently damaged, of us all having reduced health and lifespan is a poor second. Because that’s the culture, isn’t it? The car is King and we are its subjects.