Wednesday, 25 July 2007

On not going by car

I volunteered to deliver a round of Lib Dem leaflets in Berechurch Ward, Colchester, calling for a by-election. So on Sunday morning the leaflets, the dog and I set out from the town centre to the ward.
It is a good thing that the dog and I like walking, because cycling being ruled out (the dog would not fit in), I had planned to go by bus, but none came, and later I found out there was only one per hour. So we walked there. It was quite a long way. We delivered the leaflets. We walked back. It took about four hours, all told. This is what Sundays are like for people without cars.
The majority of houses on my round were semi-detached with open plan front gardens, a garage, and one, two or three cars and vans parked on the front area, some with a motor bike or three. This meant walking up one garden path, then hopping across to the other semi, then back to the street. So I went round a fair number of vehicles. They were of all kinds, including big, new gas-guzzlers, expensive both to buy and run. Yet these houses were modest and many were poorly maintained. That is my main impression of the visit - cars, cars, cars.
What would life be like without cars here? How are households going to manage when having a car has become too costly (which I think will be quite soon)? Their lives will be more like those of teenagers, the elderly, the blind and others who for whatever reason cannot drive. They will have to co-operate a lot more. The bus and the bicycle are lifelines, but travel by those those methods takes time. I think they will demand local shops, cafes, entertainments.
We need to prepare for when lots more people are without cars. We have hardly begun. Cars are such a habit. We are constantly told that cars mean freedom and control over our lives. It is a myth. In only a few decades cars have made suburbia possible, ruined our towns, cities and countryside, consumed our wealth, made the streets lethal to our children, enabled others to demand that we commute ridiculous distances to make a living. What sort of freedom is that?

No comments: