I first got a driving licence in 1971. But in the last 30 years I have only owned a car for two short periods, each of them for very specific reasons and neither of them lasting more than 2 years.
In that time I must have explained hundreds of times how liberating it is to not own a car and how much richer life is without one. Here are some of the stories I have told:
- When it was time to move I have spent up to 18 months finding somewhere to live that was close to basic services (supermarket, GP, schools, bus stops and rail links etc)
- I ride a bicycle and regard 10 miles (with public transport back-up) as a comfortable commuting distance.
- Unusual journeys like student moves, remote self-catering holidays or furniture deliveries can be done with a cheap hire car.
- My children have learned to swim, ride bikes, catch buses, trains and aeroplanes independently from an early age. They all happily walked to school from age 5 to 18 in all weathers. They all did the sports, music, clubs, cubs and trips that school and community allowed.
- Their grandmother lived with us into her 90s, and never had to stay in for want of a lift somewhere, despite increasing immobility.
- The money saved on vehicle excise duty, fuel, maintenance, insurance and depreciation has left plenty of money to pay for occasional taxis, hire cars, megabus or rail tickets.
- Health and fitness are blessings. All of us enjoy both in good measure.
- If others have offered a lift, or if I have ever asked for a lift, a reciprocal favour has always been easy to find.
- Planning journeys in advance has taken time and effort sometimes. This has been a useful discipline. It makes sure the journey is worth while and that we get the most out of it while using the least possible resource to achieve it. “Lets go out for a drive” is not in our vocabulary.
- I have learned to see and feel places I visit in a much more direct and engaging way than when I drive. Never having to find (and pay for) a parking space is a significant freedom.
- I meet, or at least interact with, lots of good, interesting and strange people. I have adventures. Getting lost is actually fun when you’re not on the M25 or heading south at 70mph when you should be going north.
- Road works become interesting and all other sites and sounds can be given as much attention as you like.
I could go on and on. But the one thing I wold insist on is that if you react by thinking “it’s alright for him, but…” it would be that owning a car is a choice you make, and it’s a choice that you can unmake if you want to – dependent only on how serious you are about it. I suppose cigarettes and alcohol can be “impossible” to give up too.
So if you like cars, enjoy driving cars and see cars as a great contribution to national and global life, that’s fine by me. Carry on driving them and carry on encouraging the kids to be dependent too. But as it gets more difficult to park, as costs continue to climb, as regulations and routes get more and more restrictive, don’t claim a priority for your old-fashioned romantic mode of transport – make your move. I have some tips on how to do that painlessly. Coming up in the next blog.