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Cars are a waste of space

February 18, 2012

I have to start by admitting that I love cars, particularly fast ones. I love motor sport in general and F1 in particular. Of the little TV that I do watch top gear, Ice road truckers, and motor sport programme feature heavily!

At one stage, many years ago now, I drove a Triumph Spitfire mark 2 – and I absolutely loved it! Now I drive a Citroen C3 because it does an unbelievable number of miles to the gallon, and even then I make sure I lift share where possible.

So it does sometimes feel like I have a split personality. It certainly isn’t that as I have grown older I have become more responsible (boring) [although some would want to argue that is the case]. It is that I have begun to appreciate the big picture. You see cars are a waste of space, literally. They are designed for four or five people, sometimes up to eight in a people carrier – but when you look at how many people are sitting in them on the road it is still mostly just one person. This takes up road space, which then means there is an irresistible pressure to build more roads. However actually we want more efficient travel arrangements – we need cars to be full at all times, we need buses to  carry more people (not just those with bus passes) – which is like to mean we need better designed more comfortable buses! We need our train lines to be reinstated, so that (for example) I can go from Earby to Skipton, Colne, Barnoldswick, and beyond! We need safe and sensible cycle lanes, so cyclists need not go in packs and cause huge disruption to cars.

And more cars, mean more car parks. Even otherwise sensible organisations like the National Trust have swallowed the “we have aright to drive our cars, so we should have a right to park them” mentality. They advertise,`join us and get free car parking`. At which I just want to shout NO! I want to visit an unspoilt piece of countryside or stately parkland not a huge car park!

Of course, it is not just the space – it is the carbon emissions that are literally poisoning our world. Climate change is already effecting all of us to some extent – but unless we get really serious about it it will get worse!

So it become a matter of justice. In transport – like everything else – the rich get richer, while the poor have to put up with it. In the UK public transport is underused because of our love affair with the car. – this means that the poorest, who cannot afford to own, let alone drive, a car rely on a public transport infrastructure that costs them proportionately more. They end up paying far more than the 30% of income that I pay for running a two car family and a hour long commute each day!

Yes, of course I know that it is complicated. Yes I know we have some car manufacturing industry left, yes I know that it cannot change overnight, yes I know that there is a very effective lobby from car owners and truckers that could scupper what little political will there is to change, yes I know that as a country we are broke. And yes I know that with less cars motorsport will carry less advertising and so will be more expensive…

But I also know that unless we start to change now, unless we are willing to love good public transport as much as we love our cars. we will run out of physical space, we will run out of physical materials to build the things, and we will run out of good clean air to breathe.

How many bicycles are there in China?

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