Perry Walker writes

For people who haven’t come across the Win-Win Workout before, here’s a summary. The aim is to find solutions to tricky and divisive political issues that work for everyone. We do that in two stages:

  • Identify a set of shared aims that everyone can live with
  • Seek solutions that meet those shared aims

This two-stage solution is critical. In this divisive and divided age, discussion of solutions so easily gets stuck in the binary. Abortion yes or no, LTNs yes or no, etc. We counter that division by seeking common ground. There is far more common ground at the level of aims – which include our needs and values – than there is at the level of solutions. Once we have a set of shared aims, we can return to solutions and have a much more constructive and creative discussion.

Our events are open to everybody. We do not know if the people who turn up will represent a wide range of views, across the divide. So we use role play to ensure that range. People take on a character, of which more below.

This event was online and lasted for two hours. We took Oxford as our example of LTNs. 15 people attended: Oxford residents, transport academics, a transport consultant, and residents of elsewhere.

Characters and their aims
Each of the six characters was an Oxford resident who had contributed to some online forum. For each character, we quoted their view and suggested what their aim might be. These are listed below.

Given that 15 people came to the event, each character was represented by two or three people. They were at liberty to go with the aim that we had suggested – or to adapt it.

  • Sarah, an Oxford resident. My aim: LTNs have to be fair. They should affect everyone equally, wherever they live.
  • Evin, a single Mum and community mental health nurse associate. My aim: Help people to be healthier by promoting active travel
  • Martin, a window cleaner. My aim: LTNs should not harm local businesses which are already struggling in hard financial times
  • Neelam, an electric wheelchair user. My aim: LTNs are safer for me as a wheelchair user
  • Lesley, an Oxford resident from Littlemore. My aim: we need to reduce air pollution – and we should only have LTNs if they genuinely reduce air pollution.
  • Becks, an Oxford resident. My aim: We should encourage a sense of community, and LTNs do that

Where we got to on shared aims

The following aims were acceptable to all of the six characters:

  • Those most disadvantaged at present should not suffer more
  • Help people to be healthier
  • Protect asthmatic children overall
  • Should not harm local businesses
  • Reduce journey times for buses
  • Make travelling by foot, cycle, scooter and wheelchair easier safer and more pleasant
  • We should encourage a sense of community

We encourage people to go deeper into their aims by asking the question, “Why is this important to my character/me?” Two of the aims above show that progression:

  • We need to reduce air pollution(Lesley) >> Protect asthmatic children overall
  • Reduce congestion (a later suggestion, see below) >> Reduce journey times for buses

Also, Sarah’s aim, LTNs have to be fair, became more precise in the first of the shared aims above. Alternative suggestions included; No one should be disadvantaged because of where they live; It should make things fairer overall; and Enable people who are disadvantaged to be compensated.

We had a long discussion of Protect asthmatic children overall. It was suggested that there’s a difference between protecting asthmatic children (or adults) in general i.e. the public health benefit and protecting my specific children in the location and situation they are in. We didn’t manage to resolve that. The aim above reflects only the first of these points.

Half way through, people were invited to suggest other aims, speaking either for themselves or in character. We only had time to look at a couple: they are in the list above. Here are the rest.

  • Making neighbourhoods more liveable for everyone
  • Help us sleep at night by keeping road noise down
  • More activity. (This is not the same as helping people to be healthier.)
  • To get all children that can walk to school to do it. Develop clear set of public transport needs that are currently met by individual cars that could be met by public transport if it existed.
  • Cut carbon emissions

In the final 20 minutes, we looked at solutions that might deliver these aims. The two transport academics present kicked this off. Juan Pablo Orjuela stressed the importance of reducing car journeys, if these aims were to be achieved. Tom Cohen pointed out that some of these aims were much easier to achieve than others.

Here are a few of the points made in discussion.

  • There may be specific ways to deal with deal with people who are disadvantaged. For instance, Martin the window-cleaner could get a grant or loan to buy an electric cargo bike which could move through the road closures. Supporting measures are key.
  • Do we also need to create a different culture around driving cars from entitlement and privilege to ‘polluter’ unless it’s really necessary. (To which, one response was: I’m interested in what disincentives we can create.)
  • Incentivise car-sharing
  • Move from bollards to CCTV
  • It’s a process of transition – may not be perfect straight away
  • Need for prior research on why car journeys are made

Getting from aims to solutions is no small matter. Even so, we recommend this two-step approach. The British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, once said, “There is no greater mistake than to try to leap an abyss in two jumps.” We don’t think like that. We think not of an abyss but of a river – and the possibility of providing a stepping stone.

And finally…
Juan Pablo – the Oxford based academic – invited anyone who wished to get in touch with him: