Flying has become about as much fun as queuing at a supermarket checkout. Less: you don’t have to take off your shoes in Tesco.
Should I be doing this? I am delighted to get so many offers of posts about city life from my travelling family and friends. Some of them started to arrive in December so thanks to Kate for the topical post on Lisbon trams (I hope there will be lots more about public transport as Edinburgh city council has at last accepted the business case for a first tram line in the capital); thanks to Ray for a piece on a thriving Dundee skate park that should put Edinburgh to shame; and thanks to Kit, our man down under, for adding his comment on Melbourne’s skaters. Don’t miss it! (I also heard from Peter that he had sent a post on cities which has unfortunately gone missing in cyberspace but with luck that will make its way here soon.)
All the same, should I be encouraging a communal blog about places we are likely to reach by plane?
Of course I think I should. For one thing, it means I can learn about other cities without having to get on the plane: Carrie’s post gives a fascinating insight into Beijing life. But I am aware of being a hypocrite. I bang on about climate change and criticise the government for avoiding the big decisions we need to help us change our polluting behaviour. Then like almost everyone I know I get on the plane. In the last two years I have flown to Dublin, Dubrovnik, Amsterdam, Budapest, Prague, Helsinki and Nice and that would not have been possible without the influence of the likes of Michael O’Leary, the Ryanair impressario who has helped to force down the cost of flying.
That hasn’t necessarily made travel more democratic (the latest Civil Aviation Authority Passenger Survey found that people flying from Stansted earned an average of £57,000 per year -– it was £53,000 in Edinburgh). But the boom in weekend breaks must be boosting the economies of cities across Europe. (And I suspect it was the importance of city economies that Peter was writing about).
I don’t think cheap flights can or should continue because they are not environmentally sustainable (no matter what Tony Blair says according to today’s Guardian) but that raises a lot of questions. How can we go on exploring great places without speeding the destruction of the environment? Can cities continue to prosper without the planned growth in air traffic? Or are we confusing growth with prosperity? Besides, in the not so long term, climate change could begin to eat into some of those city profits. Edinburgh’s cancelled Hogmanay street party demonstrates how easily storms can blow away ambitious plans.
One answer is that we don’t always have to go by air. In fact flying has become about as much fun as queuing at a supermarket checkout. Less: you don’t have to take off your shoes in Tesco. In the last two years I have also visited Belfast, Bruges, Brussels and Eindhoven by ferry, Eurostar and wonderfully efficient Netherland trains. It’s a lot more fun than flying.
So my new year resolution is to find alternatives to the plane when I can. Meanwhile your thoughts on the flying dilemma are very welcome. Along with your blogs. I look forward to an Indonesian posting from Dougal and Andrea, and John’s post from Cahors.