Mayer Hillman is a social scientist who was often decades ahead of his time. Mainly through the Policy Studies Institute, his work ranged across town planning, road safety, energy and climate change. Some of his ideas are now government policy – he was the first to propose energy ratings for houses, which were officially created in 2007. My little project to make my house A rated relies on work that Hillman was doing around the time I was born. I also owe the 20 mile per hour speed limit on my street to Hillman, who was proposing them as a child-friendly road safety measure in the 70s.
Hillman’s work changed planning rules on out of town shopping centres. He researched the benefits of cycling and walking, and encouraged the first transport policies around active transport. His proposals for re-opening branch line railways are back in fashion. Other ideas remain untapped, such as carbon rationing to address climate change – and most of all, his critique of economic growth. I suspect their time will come.
Now retired and in his late 80s, Hillman has stopped writing and speaking about climate change. But an email came in this week with a video: The last and most important advice I will ever give. I thought I’d share it, because it’s worth sharing in its own right, but also as a thank you to Hillman. When change happens, the attention tends to go to the campaigners who called for it and the politicians who announce it. The research, advocacy and policy teams in-between often go un-noticed. Mayer Hillman’s work has quietly shaped our towns and streets and the way we move around them. Thank you, and we’re listening.