As a campaigner who has been arrested eight times for obstructing roads, gluing myself to paintings, blocking Rupert Murdoch’s printing press and smashing his headquarters’ windows, I can’t throw the people protesting at the Heavitree & Whipton Active Travel trial under the bus.
Their bold actions – ripping out bollards, blocking the bus gates, destroying the planters and signs – point towards the need for a different future. Our ancient Roman city requires radical change, and local residents are leading the charge. I read their motives and they want the same as me: a radical overhaul of our system. In some areas, such as transport, we need a revolution.
If the people who live and work in Exeter can’t drive around the city, how are they going to get to their jobs, or to the shops? The clarion call for transformation comes with a price tag, but who should foot the bill? The newspapers have been telling us for decades that the way we live can’t be bettered, but they have led us down the garden path to the precipice of civilisational collapse.
As the winds of change blow through Exeter’s streets, it’s only fair that the corporate giants, like Shell, which have long benefited from our carbon footprint, contribute to the solution. We all need to be able to travel to and around our city easily, cheaply and cleanly. We need a raft of transport options to replace the capacity of the roads we are transforming back to residential streets – an expensive process.
Taxation, a tried-and-tested avenue, stands as a just mechanism to channel funds towards sustainable infrastructure. Shell and their ilk have been making record profits, off our backs, year on year. It is they who should be footing this bill, not us, the residents of Exeter.
A city that endures the buzz of congestion could harmonise with the hum of progress, if people-power and visionary leadership worked together. Change, it seems, is not just in the polluted air, but on the streets where we walk and cycle.