We need greenways & electric scooters NOW

An open letter from the Peacemaker Foundation

Update May 2020: Since the time of first sharing these ideas in early March 2020, more and more places have already started following some of these suggestions. We need to make sure we keep up the momentum and see these beneficial changes happen in more places.


At present we face the challenge of providing people with safe forms of transport in which they do not occupy enclosed spaces with others and can maintain a safe social distance. The hazards of public transport right now are well documented, but many are falsely assuming that car journeys are safe. A car is an even more enclosed space than a train or bus, so the only way it’s going to be safer is if you travel alone or with people you know for sure to be virus free and take precautions.

Hordes of people avoiding public transport by travelling in cars alone is a scenario we must avoid for obvious health and environmental reasons. The virus may just be Mother nature’s wake up call, reminding us of our biggest problem – global warming.  We absolutely need to take this fleeting window of a chance to do better.


1. While we have less traffic, widen and improve existing bike lanes and cycle-superhighways to enhance cycling safety and allow greater social distancing. Any cycle superhighways should have at least two lanes in either direction (slow and fast) with clear barriers to divide the two directions and further enhance safety. All efforts should be made to separate cyclists from vehicle traffic and pedestrians – even if it means elevating the cycle pathway over some or all roads.

2. Legalise electric scooters as a matter of urgency and other allow them to be used on the improved bike lanes and cycle-superhighways – henceforth ‘greenways’.

3. Rather than peppering a city with inadequate bike lanes, simply take a small number of roads and devote them entirely to green lightweight transport devices by banning cars: minimal to no infrastructure required, maximum safety and social distancing, maximum encouragement to get people out of cars and onto bikes and scooters, massively enhanced air quality for residents on those roads, maximum fun and completely reversible in future if need be. North-South and East-West routes converging in the city centre would be a perfect start to allow speedy and safe long distance travel!


If local governments do this now there will be far less pushback than if they wait. This is what we should have done long, long before anyway, but we’ve been blinded by our obsession with cars for so long that it hasn’t happened in most places. Smoke gets in your eyes. Nevermind, we can do it now, we must do it now.


In Germany, Paris, New Zealand and elsewhere local governments have created pop-up cycle lanes using various removable materials. Later on these widened bike ways could be made permanent. 

In Birmingham, UK, pollution has risen with excessive car use in recent years. The local government created two high-quality cycle superhighways which have been criticised for hardly being used. As soon as we legalise electric scooters it’s obvious that they will become well-used and this will help to clear the air. The existing two cycle-superhighways form a disconnected South-to-North pathway – we now need an East-to-West path as well please.

In London various cycle-superhighways are now becoming victims of their own success and are far too busy to allow for safe social distancing. They’re also often quite unsafe given that they’re bi-direction without separation – so cyclists pass each other at high speeds. Identical paths parallel to or elevated above the existing ones should be created without delay. Then each cycle-superhighway can  become one way only – safer in every respect. If parallel, then we could simple allocate one of the traffic lanes for now, and later on make the change permanent.


We need to:

  1. Improve and widen cycleways/bike lanes – then give them a new name such as ‘greenways’ or ‘greenlanes’.
  2. Legalise electric scooters & some other non-polluting lightweight portable transport tools & allow the scooters on the ‘Greenways’.
  3. Devote just two or three long roads in each city to green transport gadgets to allow safer faster travel across the city.

Let’s do this now please. If we do, we may look back one day and see that in fact it was the virus that saved us.

To see our letter written in early March 2020 to the Future of transport team in the UK click HERE

Thoughts on Covid-19 – behave responsibly, don’t blame China

The other day on my solitary run in the park I saw people holding hands, people sharing a spliff, some young guys sitting in a car (with the engine running) while drinking from a bottle. On my way to a lesson recently I had to get on a busy bus and there was a lady eating her supper. Snowdonia national park recently recorded its busiest day on record as people flocked there in their cars. And all of this as the UK started going into lockdown against a threat the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

We know the main solution – minimise contact with others as much as possible and stay home. But what has not come through clearly enough is that if possible you should still stay two metres apart from those in your home where possible – especially in the first weeks of the family isolation and especially if they have not been abiding by the guidelines themselves. There is a dangerous myth that if you’re all in a house together then you either all have it or not. This is wrong, it’s perfectly possible to share a house with someone who has the virus and not get it if you take the right steps (normally away from other people) and maintain your immune system. Your immune system can often deal with one-off attacks but do not overload it. This means avoid enclosed spaces with others – even family for now. Sorry, as of 30 March, unnecessary car journeys with others are really NOT a good idea. Wait a while. If it’s unavoidable then take the sensible cleaning precautions, wear a mask, and open a window (see HERE for more info). This is now a great time to walk or ride a bike to get to the park – we have cleaner air and less traffic than we’ve had in years.

Please, if enough of us do take these steps then we’ll get through this much more quickly and be stronger, wiser and more grateful for it.

So obviously the problem and the solution is our behaviour – this is what we can control in the present moment. So I believe that for any outsiders to blame the Chinese government for what it did or didn’t do in the past is deeply unhelpful – there are plenty of people in China doing that already (see HERE). China’s response, although perhaps initially flawed, has effectively mitigated the spread of the virus. The lockdown strategy was initially questioned – but thanks to China we can see that is the gold standard approach we need. In terms of searching for a cure or vaccine Chinese researchers have helped hugely. To start with Chinese researchers constructed the whole genomic sequence of the new virus and promptly shared it (See HERE). Also some of the most promising ongoing research into treatments is coming from China  – such as using convalescent plasma of recovered patients for example. China also sent the first aid to Italy with a plane packed full of medical equipment along with nine experienced doctors to help (See HERE)

It seems clear that this virus was just a quirk of nature, a new virus that arose randomly, probably in bats or snakes, as part of life’s great quest to exist by replicating and changing. But it would currently be hard to disprove anyone if they said an alien species shot a beam from outer space onto that Wuhan market and created the virus, or who said that it was the work of some mad scientist. Or maybe it’s Mother Nature’s grand call for us all to reconnect with the World, be wiser, more compassionate and perhaps more respectful. This may be a form of philosophical Darwinist evolution whereby compassionate and less selfish societies are less affected. In Japan and Taiwan the response has been relatively successful and in both places mask wearing is common practice. The reason is often not to protect the wearer but those around them. So maybe the real virus is selfishness and ignorance and it’s that which we need to overcome now.

Luckily most people are behaving admirably and there all sorts of true heroes around us – well over half a million people in the UK signed up to volunteer to help the national Health service. And luckily the vast majority of people out here in the West, or in the UK at least, do not openly condemn the Chinese government, far less the Chinese people. In such a situation it’s also often the case that members of an ethnic group (in this case Chinese) become hyper-conscious or hyper-sensitive which may lead to some false accusations of prejudice or stereotyping alongside the legitimate claims. But the golden rule is that we are all valuable. Any mindless stereotyping or disparaging and unfair behaviour towards an ethnic group is deeply wrong. All is one is all – in essence we are the same. And everyone is many (we each have various aspects to our character). So if you know any one trying to point the finger, tell them to point it at those not following the guidelines – not at China.

We cannot change the past we can only work with the present. A good sailor is known in bad weather and this is a storm we need to ride out spiritually together while staying apart physically. Let’s do this now and start creating a world with more love, awareness, respect, compassion and wisdom. This may be what Mother Nature is asking us to do.

Elevated Pod Cars for Birmingham


In Birmingham, UK, car traffic has increased in recent years leading to increased pollution and congestion which pose a threat to health and well-being.[1]

This is a proposal to use small lightweight vehicles known as pods or pod cars on elevated tracks to help resolve the city’s transport problems.

Hanging Pod Cars For Birmingham

Ultra Prt For Birmingham

Pod car proposals for Birmingham

Pod cars

Pod cars are a form of personal rapid transport (PRT). They are automated pods which move on a track. The passenger simply steps in a pod at a station and selects the destination station. The pod will then move continuously to the destination without stops at other stations along the way. This is possible because stations are set alongside the main guideway track. Despite low speeds (often between 10 and 25 mph), journey times are quick thanks to the continuous motion. The pods are generally small and may accommodate only several people at once.

Benefits of pod cars on an elevated track

• Light

Given the relatively light weight of the pod cars an elevated track can be made using less materials than used for an elevated track for trains, trams or other large vehicles. Therefore the design can be less conspicuous, more elegant and the track can even be designed to let light through.

• Safety

Once elevated or separated from other traffic, pod cars are a far safer alternative to any other form of transport that shares the same road space with other kinds of transport. Rail transport such as trams and trains, are known to be a very safe mode of transport, however; when they share the road space with other vehicles this can cause accidents and delays.[2] Furthermore, the tram tracks are a serious risk to cyclists and those on scooters.

• Good views

An elevated track brings good views along the way.

• Air Quality

Air quality usually improves with height [3] – so the air quality for passengers on an elevated track is likely to be far better than on the ground.

• Security

With regard to crime and security concerns such as terrorism, pod cars offer one of the very safest forms of public transport. Given the fixed routes on a track there is no threat of them being used as weapons (as with cars or trucks). The small size of the pods also means there is no potential for attacks among large groups of people on the journey. Safety is further increased by the fact that the pods do not stop along the way. Areas where the pods run (such as canals) are likely to experience enhanced safety owing to the increased visibility, especially if the pods are raised above the ground allowing passengers a good view of surroundings.

• Long-term utility

An elevated track is more future proof because we avoid future interference when ground-level infrastructure undergoes repair or change. Also whether or not innovations such as driverless cars become very popular, the elevated pod car network will retain its value as a way to reduce congestion on ground level – and the capacity of the network can be adapted to suit the city’s changing needs.


Transport on a well designed elevated track is less likely to be influenced by leaf fall, trespassers and so on.

Benefits of pod cars in general

Environmentally friendly

Pod cars are a sustainable and pollution free alternative mode of transport.

• Cheap

Pod cars are relatively cheap to build and offer higher rates of return than many other transport modes. The cost of constructing the pod car network is far lower than for the equivalent length of subway or elevated rail track.[4]


Once a destination is selected, the pods move with no driving necessary, so the passenger can relax and enjoy the view.

Even more Safety

The low but continuous speed enhances safety yet further.

• Efficiency

The continuous motion saves energy – starting and stopping is hugely wasteful in terms of energy. They are also more energy efficient than large vehicles or mass transport tools at times of low usage. This is because running a whole train, bus or tram with few people on is obviously inefficient and wasteful. Usually only those pod cars with passengers are in motion, while the other pods remain at stations ready for other passengers, however; empty pods can be directed to busy stations if need be.

• Tried & Tested

The ultra PRT pod car network in Heathrow airport has been running since 2011 and has proven itself to be efficient, reliable and highly popular.[5] The system was ‘‘voted by customers as their favourite airport passenger service’’.[6] Other systems are running elsewhere, such those in Masdar city, Suncheon, Korea and Morganstown, United States.[7]

• Simultaneous entry

A number of pods can wait for passengers at every station so that potentially several groups of people could get on at once. So wait times would likely be far less than for many bus, tram or train services. In the Heathrow pod car system the average weight time is around 10 seconds. [8]


The pods are far quieter than most trains or other large vehicles.

• Novelty

The novelty and convenience of the pod cars would help boost the fame of the city and bring in more visitors.

• Gradual construction in stages

The pod car network could be built in stages allowing for a trial period before a full scale network is constructed. Likewise, we could add more pods to the network if or when the demand rises.

• Compatibility

Given the relatively low cost of the network it can be built in addition to other transport solutions. So it need not, and should not, replace other recent worthwhile initiatives such as the cycle superhighways, the tram network and so on.[9]

Disadvantages of pod cars

• Large numbers of pods required

Because pod cars are small, many pods are required to provide a high-capacity service. This increases likelihood of mechanical failure or some other problem with a given pod on the network. However, the technology has already proven itself to be extremely reliable and if a pod car breaks down on the main track then there is a way to ‘‘push failed vehicles from behind to the nearest station.’’[10] Furthermore, given the small size and relatively low cost of each pod compared to a train or tram, each pod can be moved, taken away, serviced or even replaced with far greater ease than many larger transport tools.

Given the large number of pods required, the track will likely experience a high volume of pod traffic. So the pods will probably pass by people’s homes and offices with more regularity than trains or trams. However; the fact that the pods are relatively quieter, small and pollution free should help them to gain acceptance or favour.

• Ugly?

Some may find them visually unappealing especially if on an elevated track. Hopefully the lightweight construction and light permeability of the design will help increase acceptance. A strategically located track above a pedestrian path, canal tow path or bike lane, could even serve as a very useful rain shelter while allowing enough light in from the sides and a good view of the surroundings.

Recommendations for Birmingham – pod cars over canals & rivers

We propose putting a pod car network above the canals, and possibly the rivers, in Birmingham. This would bring yet more benefits in addition to those already mentioned.

Benefits of pod cars above canals

• Space & ownership

There is enough space so no infrastructure needs to be moved. Also none of the space is privately owned.

• Less negative impact

The canal boat traffic is far less than vehicle traffic, so any inconvenience caused by the elevated track or construction will influence far fewer people than if the track were constructed above a road.

• Direct routes

The canals offer extremely direct routes into the city centre from various locations – many not served by trains.

• Regeneration

The small size of the stations means they would be numerous and be built in various neglected parts of the city, helping regeneration.

• Serving new developments

The main areas of large scale building projects such as Broad Street, Eastside, Smithfields and Paradise Circus will all need improved public transport access. Luckily these areas are all in close proximity to canals so would be served by the pod cars. This will then reduce pressure on other the transport services.

Map of canals (2020 Google Maps Data)

Image taken from 2020 Google Maps Data & highlights added. A map showing some possible pod car routes above canals in blue and major building projects in yellow. The river Rea route (narrower) could be a future extension pending demand.

Map of canals (2020 Google Maps Data) (2)

Image taken from Google maps data (2020) & amended. Map showing a possible initial pod car network in blue. Extensions could be added in future, perhaps going over rivers or some roads like the A4540 to form a loop around the city centre.

• Improving canal-side safety

Thanks to the resurfacing of the canal towpaths, the canals are now used regularly by cyclists and pedestrians. However; this brings obvious safety issues when there is competition for space.[11] It’s likely that many of the pedestrians and some of the cyclists would use the pod car service thereby reducing the canal side congestion and improving safety.

A very helpful addition to the city, even without the pod cars, would be an elevated walkway for pedestrians running over the canal towpath. This would separate cyclists and pedestrians. The pod car stations would be easily accessed from this walkway using stairs and ramps or lifts (for disabled access).

• Enhanced security on the canals

There have been various reported incidents of robberies on the canals in Birmingham. The enhanced visibility the pods would bring, will increase personal safety for those walking or cycling along the canals as well as for those in canal boats. It may be that the canals outside the city centre even become pleasant places for a night stroll, presenting new business opportunities such as canal-side cafes and so on.

• Less disruption

The construction of the network above the canals would bring less disruption to traffic than if it were constructed above roads. In addition, air quality for construction workers will be far better than alongside busy roads.

• A major tourist attraction

The canals are a scenic attribute of Birmingham and an important tourist attraction. Riding along the canals in a pod car will likely become a popular activity for tourists and residents alike.

• Integration into existing infrastructure

Bridges over the canals can support the structure of the track and lead to pod car stations. This could potentially reduce construction time, costs and materials.

Disadvantages of pod cars above the canals

• A high track

The track would need to rise over the canal bridges such as road and rail crossings so would need to allow safe passage for all vehicles driven over the bridges. Either the entire track is made high enough or gentle rises can take it over the bridges. Where space allows, the track could also be diverted under the bridges although the height may actually add to the novelty and enhance views from the pods.

• Peace and tranquility of the canals

Some may view the pods as an ugly distraction from the peace and tranquility of the canals. But equally many may regard the pods as a welcome visual addition that adds life to otherwise dull areas.

Alternative or complementary transport solutions

1. Greenways over the canals

To help combat pollution, big cities around the world will need to cater to the increased popularity of small electric transport devices such as scooters and electric bikes, as well as bicycles. An alternative to having an elevated pod car track would be to have elevated ‘greenways’ – green gadget super-highways reserved only for small lightweight non-polluting transport devices such as bikes and scooters.[12] This could also be built over the river Rea, and perhaps along some roads, while the pod cars run above the canals.

Bike Lanes Over The Canals

A greenway over a canal

Birmingham’s population is rising, so it’s likely that in future we would benefit from a combination of both elevated pod car and greenways. The hanging pod cars network could be adapted so the space above is used as a greenway or walkway. This may require further bolstering of the structure to support the increased weight but is a clear advantage of this design and ensures yet further future-proofing (long-term utility).

Hanging Pod Cars & Bikescooter Lane For Birmingham

Dual purpose pod car track & greenway (bike & scooter path)

2. Turning roads into greenways

In addition to the pod cars and other ideas we strongly believe that a necessary solution for many cities around the World is to take a select few roads leading into the city centre and convert them into greenways. In 2019 the local Birmingham government wisely chose to build two cycle-superhighways instead of six bike lanes. Likewise, several greenways with complete segregation from vehicular traffic would be far safer and more worthwhile than a myriad of bike paths alongside roads. A greenway would be entirely reversible if need be, but if popular then more infrastructure could be added such as pedestrian bridges enhancing safety and allowing continuous flow for pedestrians and those on the greenway alike. See HERE for more information.

Above: A proposed greenway with pod car track as an optional later addition 

3. An elevated light rail system


DCC Doppelmayr Cable Car / CC BY-SA  (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

An elevated monorail, or tram system could also be built. For example, Birmingham airport’s people mover (see image) would be a good option for the city because elevated, but this would require heavier more costly infrastructure and the trains/trams would have to stop at every station along the way. Therefore we believe it makes more sense to use elevated pod cars while reopening unused railway lines or transforming them into tramways, greenways or a combination.


A conclusion

Whatever we choose to do, we need to segregate pedestrians, bikes and other vehicles wherever possible. We believe that pod car tracks over canals and possibly rivers is clearly a very good answer to Birmingham’s traffic and transport problems. Even if built over roads many of the benefits would be kept. By looking logically at the various aspects of this idea the potential benefits become clear. We have shown how this is a low cost, sustainable and safe transport option. Even the main design issue of how we can incorporate the bridges into the design are entirely resolvable. So the greatest hurdle to overcome will be people’s apprehension towards new ideas. In Birmingham, the traffic has now become so busy, with air quality so poor in certain areas, that we now need to overcome our apprehensions and look for solutions urgently.

If you also feel this is a valuable proposal, for Birmingham or any other city, then please do share with others. If you have any recommendations, comments or queries please get in touch and help get our transport on the right track!

[1] https://www.greaterbirminghamchambers.com/research-campaigning/hot-topics/transport-and-congestion/.

[2] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/623366/light-rail-tram-ending-march-2017.pdf

[3] http://www.wsp-pb.com/PageFilesn/80156/WSPPB%20City%20Air%20Quality%20at%20Height.pdf

[4] https://www.ultraglobalprt.com/how-it-works/costs/

[5] https://www.ultraglobalprt.com/wheres-it-used/

[6] http://www.futureairport.com/features/featuremy-pod-heathrows-capsular-travel-system-4377991/

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_rapid_transit

[8] http://www.bbc.com/autos/story/20140910-hands-off-with-heathrows-pods

[9] https://www.business-live.co.uk/opinion-analysis/dont-think-birmingham-solving-traffic-10914789

[10] https://www.railway-technology.com/projects/personal-rapid-transit/

[11] https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/jul/27/on-roads-cyclists-are-vulnerable-but-on-towpaths-theyre-the-menace.

[12] https://peacemakerfoundation.com/category/world-health/urban-flow-plan/

To download this proposal in PDF form please click HERE

All images & writing by Luc@Peacemakerfoundation.com unless credited otherwise

Mindmaps Showing Pros & Cons of Various Transport Tools

Here are some Mindmaps showing the various advantages & disadvantages of different lightweight portable transport (LPT) tools. Please let us know if you feel additional information needs to be included.
Advantages of (Electric) Scooters over Hoverboards as Commuting ToolsDownload a PDF of the above mindmap HEREAdvantages of people-powered non-motorised transport tools (bikes, scooters & so on)Download a PDF of the above mindmap HERE

Advantages of electric self-balancers over scooters & bikesDownload a PDF of the above mindmap HERE

To see a far more in depth analysis of the pros and cons of various lightweight portable transport gadgets click HERE


對不起, 還沒翻譯好.

這些英文的言語適合上課用, 特別是英文課因為老師可以挑選課內容相關的言語. 言語都可以做成”智慧卡“.

Wisdom makes a better present

Here are what I believe to be some of the most helpful and special quotes of all time. This collection is unique because it can almost be read as a single flowing text owing to the interconnectedness of the ideas. This collection started as a series of simple life guidelines I wrote for young English learners interspersed with related quotes. Over the years more and more quotes were added and much of my own slightly shoddy writing discarded.

Attention teachers! Sharing a relevant topic related quote in class can be a really interesting way to start discussions and get learners thinking.

I have found these quotes ideal for English classes and I keep a record of what quotes I have shared with what classes so that I can make class specific quotes lists and we can have fun review sessions. These quotes can also be used as part of the ‘Wisdom Cards‘ idea.

下載 PDF

W.I.S.E (Wisdom In Studying English) Helpful Quotes & Sayings Short Version (as above)

W.I.S.E (Wisdom In Studying English) for Peacemakerfoundation.com Medium Version (Includes some quotes from the author)

W.I.S.E (Wisdom In Studying English) for Peacemakerfoundation.com Longer Version (Includes quotes and simple explanations or advice from the author. Possibly suitable for some beginner level English language learners and children.)


Wisdom Cards Idea

Hand ups beat handouts hands down. The best way to help someone is often not by handing out money or food, but by giving them the means to earn it and feel valuable – one of our most basic human needs. Here is one possible way:

Here’s a collection of WISE QUOTES that could be made into wisdom cards.

Download PDF

Wisdom Cards Idea