the motor vehicle is one of the most useful tools, as well as one of the most fascinating toys, that man has ever invented. But used wastefully, selfishly and stupidly, as it is being used throughout capitalist society today, it is causing casualties on a military scale (nearly 80,000 people have been killed on British roads since the war), threatening to disrupt the cities and overrun the countryside, and destroying the most agreeable features of town life with its danger, noise, fumes and congestion.
This may sound absurdly pessimistic, but that is only because the scale and complexity of the problems raised by universal car ownership are not widely understood. The motorist who is regularly caught in traffic jams on the way to his work or on a weekend outing naturally thinks that his problem will be solved if the bottlenecks on the road are removed, roads widened, flyovers introduced at intersections, or an entirely new motor road like M1 built to take the through traffic. There is, in general, no understanding of the fact that the motor vehicle has not only effected a revolution in our personal habits, but has made the entire system of streets and roads inherited from the past out-of-date and almost unworkable. The effects of this revolution are farreaching, and the problems it raises cannot be solved by simple remedies.
Before we begin to discuss the nature of this revolution we must grasp the size of the problem, and attempt to forecast the future growth of motor traffic, on the assumption that present trends continue. If we assume (and it is, of course, a big assumption) that the standard of living of all sections of the community will rise far enough and rapidly enough to enable every adult who wants to do so to own a vehicle for personal transport, the potential demand is fantastic. The new town of Stevenage, for example, has adopted a standard, for the building of garages, of 1.25 cars per house. But in recent American developments 2 cars per house is normal, and 3 cars per house is not unknown.
The volume of cars on the roads and the flow of traffic are both increasing at a rapidly accelerating rate. In 1946 there were only 3 million vehicles of all kinds on the roads, and fewer than 2 million private cars. Since then, the total number of vehicles registered in each year has been increasing at about 8.2 per cent compound per annum. At this rate the number doubles in 9 years, and trebles in 15. There are now some 8½ million vehicles in use, including more than 5 million cars. If present trends continue there could be 16 million vehicles in 1967 and 24 million (including 13½ million cars) in 1974. But even this would not bring us to the goal of a car per family, let alone a car per adult.