Should we be investing more in our roadway maintenance or encouraging more environmental forms of transport?
As posed, the question purports to be a matter of choosing from dissonant options; whether to fix potholes or to find forms of transport that do not give rise to polluting emissions.
It is undeniable that the private car has been one of the great inventions. Today, more or less available to everybody, it gives people choices about where they live and work and what they do to have fulfilling lives. In the community I grew up in the 1950s few people had cars and travelled no further than the local bus service would take them or occasionally an all-day train journey.
For all the freedom and convenience the car has brought us, its internal combustion engine has caused foul, unhealthy air. But human beings are not unaware of this and seek solutions to the question “Can we improve the environment and still keep our stuff?” It seems we can, and increasingly cars are electric and much, much cleaner. Battery technology is advancing all the time and soon graphene batteries that can charge in the same time as it takes to fill a car with petrol will be mainstream. Hydrogen fuel cells are reliable, clean, producing only electricity, heat and water and are the next big thing in vehicle propulsion. No emissions, no pollution.
In a mixed market of transport people will always want the freedom, flexibility of their own private vehicle for many of the journeys they make. However that car is powered, it will need good roads and we must maintain and improve those we have. The highway authority, Kent County Council, maintains a high standard of highway repair but is and has been under-funded for many years, a situation that may be improving with the end of austerity.
If there is an answer to the question, it is: BOTH.