Walkers unite

OECD Observer

In your comparison of spending in Britain by consumers today and in the past, (Databank, OECD Observer No. 240/241, December 2003) you observe that “transport and communication accounted for just 0.8% of total spending in 1688 but by 1996 this ad soared to 10.6% [...] to become the single largest category of expenditure”.

Travel in 1688 was, of course, predominantly on foot. Shoes were, accordingly, the wheels of society. Might this not help to explain why in 1688 spending on “clothing and footwear” was exceeded only by that on food? Surely you should recalculate your graph, putting “footwear” under “transport” not “clothing”.

In Europe, for instance, the majority of people make between a fifth and a quarter of their journeys entirely on foot. They would probably walk more except that, as Sarah Jain, a Stanford University social anthropologist puts it: “streets are violent places”. The author of that violence, the motor industry, has, however, yet to accept responsibility for it and for its lethal side-effects. In the short term, we need a global, comprehensive health and safety audit of the motor industry and, in the medium term, the redesign of what are paradoxically both state-of-the-art and obsolete products."

—Terence Bendixson, Federation of European Pedestrians Associations, London

©OECD Observer No 242, March 2004 

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