In some respects, not much in the world of transport changed during the transition years: most technologies now in use were available four decades ago, if not earlier. The true transition has been the reconfiguration of the relationship between vehicles, infrastructures, and people – as anyone old enough to have once owned an internal-combustion vehicle will surely recall.

The decline in car ownership begun only once the subsidies and policies that favoured them were removed by governments reacting belatedly to the undeniable effects of climate change. Once the ultimate symbol of individual freedom and convenience, cars became an expensive anachronism*, unwelcome in (if not actively excluded from) ever-greater sections of cities and towns, and multi-lane highways were torn up to be replaced by tramways and the “linear parks” that are now an urbanist’s cliché.

Those policies were pushed through to accommodate the backlash from “Generation Zero” (sometimes referred to as “the slowing”) which created a demand for neighbourhoods where travelling – whether for shopping, recreation, education or business – was not just unnecessary, but unwanted. This was enabled by the refactoring of global, regional and local logistics, as well as by substantial reforms in agricultural production, resulting in a world where mass is expensive to move.

by Paul Raven