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Issue 478, 4 March 2002


Enlightenment in a fish bowl – or not?

Mr Aidan Foster-Carter
Honorary senior research fellow

As a sociologist, in general I reckon social science needs biology about as much as a fish needs a bicycle – to adapt a phrase. Yet I puzzle at your own particular demurral (Reporter 477 pages 4-5): "While human beings might not face the necessity of finding food ..." I havenŐt met any who could evade that necessity. Not live ones, anyway. Have you? As Karl Marx said: "Man must eat." He got that bit right, surely. "... Or fear predators", you go on. I fear predators, whether individual or corporate. Were I a woman, I fear I'd fear them more. But somehow I doubt I'll find enlightenment in a fish bowl. Solace, perhaps.

Parking could be on a rationing system

Sue Pearson-Craven
School of Healthcare Studies

Like Kathy Dyer (Letters, Reporter 477) I was also pleased to hear that the University is interested in environmental issues. I do agree that one way forward for the University's car parking problem might be to subsidise staff to use other forms of transport, such as buses, trains, bikes (or feet?)

Given the ludicrous length of the waiting list (Dr Lewis' letter in the same issue refers to 638 staff) for parking permits, it might also, or alternatively, be worth considering a 'rationing' system, whereby each member of staff could park either for a particular number of days each week, or days each term, or even each year. The problem is not simply about car parking in the University, it is about the effect upon all of us of pollution caused by traffic; and we should all be doing as much as we can to cut down on commuting by car.

On another environmental matter, may I also suggest a remedy for the enormous number of cigarette butts strewn around University grounds, particularly in flower beds? Metal cigarette bins fixed to the outside of buildings, near where staff (and students) congregate to smoke, would be safer and would help to achieve a pleasant environment. The University has some lovely displays of plants, marred all too often by a mulch of cigarette butts.

The problem isn't cost – but service

Barbara Butler
Institute for Corporate Learning

I was interested to read Mr Best's comments in Reporter 477 urging the University to encourage more staff to use public transport. Whilst I totally applaud the sentiment, the timing of Mr Best's remarks is unfortunate and I can only assume that he is not aware of the current difficulties being experienced by our local train operator, Arriva. The University, of course, already operates a metrocard scheme but I would suggest that it is not the cost of using public transport that is the main deterrent in this region but the 'service' offered which is currently one of the worst in the country.

Mr Best may be pleased that the local planning authority is restricting parking space, but if he is really concerned about the environmental consequences of car use in this area, perhaps he could turn his attention to a transport authority that allows Arriva to cancel 1000 trains a week to 'improve reliability' (it hasn't!) Instead of concentrating on measures to penalise the car user, let's concentrate on measures to improve conditions for those of us who are prepared to use public transport. Then maybe more of our colleagues would choose to join us.

No surprise motorists stay with their cars

Richard Roper
School of Mechanical Engineering

I feel I must take issue with Harold Best, regarding his concern over the provision of extra parking spaces around the University and its environs (Letters, Reporter 477). Whilst I am concerned about the environment, I am also concerned about the manner in which Leeds City Council has glibly gone about introducing its draconian measures to curb car usage on its highways.

Some employees of the University, such as myself, live outside the Leeds area in areas not provided with a public transport service anywhere near adequate enough to get us to Leeds and back home at a reasonable hour. Too many transport strategies have been developed using the assumption that Leeds' workforce lives within Leeds or its outdistricts, which is, in my opinion, a completely unacceptable, and unworkable assumption.

I have had a lifelong interest in public transport, and have witnessed the change from 'public service' to 'profit-making exercise' with absolute disdain. When public transport systems were subsidised wholly by their respective municipalities, there was never a problem, but since deregulation, services have been withdrawn, buses 'miss' on a regular basis, inspectors are non-existent, and fares are sky high.

On this basis, is it really a surprise that motorists are not tempted away from their cars? I think not. Look around you. Buses are already packed to the doors, and as long as private bus operators such as First Group operate on the basis of charging extortionate fares instead of providing more vehicles on heavily used routes, then problems will continue. There are fair ways of encouraging public transport usage, and unfair ones. It is plainly obvious to myself which methods are being used by Leeds City Council.

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