Saturday, January 17, 2015

How I live without a car.

Cars, I have never liked cars, in fact I'd go so far as to say I actively hate the things. They have been a bane of my life for as long as I can remember - which is a long time. I am sick of them and sick in them, their time has come and I long to be rid of them.

My family never had a car and frankly I grew up never being indoctrinated in to the automatic use of such a thing to get about. Nor did I ever feel the need to move from a perfectly good bedroom to somewhere else just because we had a car sitting outside costing the earth and otherwise doing nothing. I learned to like what i had where I had it. This resulted in a somewhat isolated youth time for me, but, as my experiences of the outside my bedroom world were often if not always at least poor with respect to staying put, I didn't have a lot of offers to leave it.
I did have friends, the chap next door, later the boy who sat next to me in class, that was all I needed for 17 or so years, it was most certainly all I wanted and possibly all I could cope with too, but, the upshot was - I never needed a car. The shops were within walking distance, the school which i disliked - was far too close for comfort, the bus stop was at the end of the road. That was me sorted.

In my past 17 years though, things changed. I discovered qualities in the outside world worthy of my investigation and then my deep love. The Royal Albert Hall and the BBC Proms that they held each year drew me annually for eight weeks away from home. I had by then started work and so leaving my bedroom daily was no longer a school only event. Work required me to travel, but, public transport provided all the destinations I ever needed and walking filled in the gaps. Promming taught me to stand for long periods and partly due to the hours I spent waiting to get in to the hall every day I began to dislike having to wait still longer for the tube home. It was about then that I decided to cycle.

I was good at bike riding, I seldom forgot what to do and even though I had managed not to develop any semblance of a sense of direction I also seldom got lost. I worked out a route and stuck to it rigidly. This was fine for years and years. Then one day, while picking myself up from the pavement where I had just been forced by a car, I did a mental calculation. I realised that on average I was caused to fall off my bike, either by direct contact or by attempting to avoid it, by cars, once every six months. Up to that point I had not ben killed even once, not had I broken anything less painful than skin, but I could see the writing in the road - in drips of blood - and I stopped and went back to the bus and tube.
Basically, I have never returned to two wheels. I had never enjoyed using them, mostly because too many other people were almost chemically hooked on using four. From my vantage point, car driving has become an addiction - justified by lifestyles that could have been arranged to avoid that justification. If I could manage it, so could everyone else I thought. But...

... I have learned better. As a Green, and as a thinking Green, i have changed my attitude - not greatly mind you, but I have had to accept what should have been obvious. If I can do it, I take the space from someone else thus stopping them doing it. Putting it differently - if I get a big job, even if someone else could do it, they can't because I already have it. The ability to live a car - free life is like that. If I live close enough to work, I'm using up a place others could live in. OK, I got there first, but I can't argue that 'If I can do it, then so can you' because I have no intention of stopping. Dead man's shoes...

The solution? I always want a solution, more shoes, more busses, more tubes. Reduce the need to travel, reduce the need for road transport of pointless goods, improve the quality of local life so people don't want to escape from what they have and go to someone else's potentially greener land. Going to a green place makes it brown all too often anyway. Far better to make your local brown bits greener and enjoy them.

Then, once this has all been done, transport for fun - in what ever way you like, will be fun once more - and fun for as many people who want to enjoy it. I am told the M4 is not often considered enjoyable, even though many people do it every day. How much better will it be when travel is done for pleasure and not out of necessity ?

A greened-up world shall allow this.

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