Road travel ‘cultural shift’ needed for a net-zero Devon says expert

One of the region’s transport experts has warned that a ‘cultural shift’ in our attitude towards on-road transport is needed if Devon is to become a net-zero county.

Nik Bowyer is a member of Devon’s Net-Zero Taskforce and Chair of the South West region of the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation.

The institute represents those who plan, design, build and manage transport and transport infrastructure in Devon and across the UK.

Nik says one of the main challenges of decarbonising Devon is the emphasis that planners and society as a whole have placed on road transport over the past 60 years.

Cities have been designed around car travel, he says, while the road network in a rural county like Devon is designed with ‘low occupancy vehicular movement’ in mind.

The way we live is shaped by our infrastructure. Nik says tackling and addressing the way we travel is ‘key’ to tackling climate change because it is the single biggest emitter of greenhouse gases that the county can directly influence or control.

Recent research by the University of Exeter has confirmed that 27 per cent of all carbon emissions in Devon are generated by on-road transportation.

“I think that the key challenges we have in the transportation sector are really addressing years of planning policy that have placed a huge predominance on car travel,” Nik says.

“The way we live is shaped by our infrastructure, and recent planning regimes have built-in and reinforced car travel.

“We really need to get into a culture change and engender a cultural shift that is going to allow us to help get people thinking a bit more holistically about how they travel.

“People need to ask themselves why they need to travel in the first place: should they be travelling, and, if so, trying to ensure they use a more sustainable mode, be that bus, rail, or actually trying to get people to use more active modes facilitating walking, cycling, which bring with them a whole load of associated health benefits.”

The Net-Zero taskforce is still inviting residents to have their say on what should go into Devon’s Draft Carbon Plan. You can make your comments on this website.