Many who are (or claim) they are totally dependent on their cars think that our car-free lives must be unexciting and miserable, but I can tell you from experience that the opposite is true. And you don't have to be a fitness fanatic to realize the benefits.Going Car-Free doesn't mean you can never drive
When those that think they depend on cars face issues around their ability to drive (mechanical breakdown, affording their fuel, taxes or maintenance etc), it is these folk whose lives become small and helpless because they have suddenly got themselves into a situation that they are not used to. They seem paralyzed, horrified at the thought of walking a mile or two. This isn't meant as a criticism, but to highlight the reality of the situation.
Additionally, many of those also spend inordinate amounts of time and money battling with their health and weight.
Our reasons for being a car-free family are straightforward: Cars are very bad for the planet, and they are also bad for not only our health, but also our society and communities. And this is not just about CO2 (more on that subject later)
Many see cars as freedom, flexibility and convenience, but the benefit of a car beyond a certain point, becomes nullified by the congestion, pollution and subsequent poor health.
You can buy eco-friendly products, you can recycle, you can even buy a hybrid car thinking it's a step in the right direction. But most scientists and environmentalists agree that one of the greatest positive changes you can do with regards to minimizing environmental damage, is to give up owning a private vehicle, or at the very least, only use one when it's really necessary (since many use the argument I need a car because blah blah blah and end up using it for every silly little journey that could have been made by other means).
Just because you may choose to live car-free doesn't mean you can never use one. Rent a vehicle for those odd occasions when it’s absolutely necessary.
Assuming you only rent when absolutely necessary, the money you spend on renting will be substantially less than owning and running your own vehicle even if it is just sitting on the drive. And when renting, you get to drive an almost new vehicle every time.
It is also worth taking into consideration car clubs, as it is an easier and often cheaper way to rent a car.
carplus is a great central directory for such clubs: http://www.carplus.org.uk/car-sharing-clubs/car-clubs/
When owning your own car, you will certainly be aware of the cost of fuel, insurance, car tax and servicing, but do you really know how much your car is costing you?
Let's take a lower-market value vehicle and averages to give you an idea:
A petrol vehicle costing up to £14,000
VED (Tax Disc): £135
Servicing: £400 (General Servicing, Tyres etc)
Fuel: £1,800 (Based on avg 35 mpg & 10,000 miles @ £1.39 per litre)
Annual Total: £4,600
Now what could you do with £4,600 a year?...
With a mortgage of £150,000 over 25 years on an interest rate of 4.2%, overpaying would save you around £47,800 in interest alone and means you could pay it off in full at least 11 years earlier!
No mortgage? Well, just use your imagination, and remember, we are talking £4,600 of your net income and is not subject to any further taxation other than VAT on purchases!
Benefits to our society and the way we think
Interestingly, one of the main things many car owners complain about, is the cost of running a car. But actually even though in the illustration above owning a car costs on average of £4,600 per annum, in the U.K it is actually cheaper to run a car these days than it was back in the 50s (relatively). And this is actually half the trouble, it encourages people to use cars instead of public transport (possibly by design)...
In the U.K most vehicle owners have to pay VED (Vehicle Excise Duty which many call Road Tax, but technically, that phrase is flawed but is another story). One argument I frequently hear, is that only 20% of VED actually goes on the roads (20% is approximate as the claims are often inconsistent).
This is a complete fallacy and misinterpretation of the truth. This percentage often referred to, is actually used to run the DVLA administration (Driver, Vehicle and Licensing Agency). The remainder of which goes into a central pot. This pot is also topped up by general taxes in the U.K such as VAT and PAYE (Pay As You Earn).
One argument to put this false claim to rest, is that the cost of investigating road fatalities and serious accidents on U.K roads actually absorbs the majority of VED funds before any of it even goes anywhere near maintaining the roads.
In addition, what about those with poor health resulting from their sedentary lifestyle who frequent the NHS? That alone is said to cost billions each year.
Also, what about oil wars. The cost of militarisation is one of the most costly things our government engages in, and a large chunk of it has nothing to do with defense; it is to keep the oil flowing!
UK MOTORING COSTS:
Road Building: $9bn
UK MOTORING RECEIPTS
Fuel Duty: £24.9bn
Other Costs: £17.8bn (VAT on fuel, car sales etc)
So, altogether the total cost of financing the U.K roads and road-based transport vs. the funds obtained through VED + fuel duty + VAT and all other costs vehicle owners have to pay actually leaves a £9bn deficit. This equates each car owner being subsidized to drive by at least £600 per year.
This means every tax payer in the U.K is subsidizing the roads regardless of whether or not they own a vehicle. Yet car drivers still complain about cyclists and other non motorized road users not paying VED and using roads "owned" by drivers, despite the fact that the likes of cyclists hardly cause any wear and tear or pollute!
One final point on economics. Most of us in Europe know that The Netherlands has a cycle focused transport system. Estimates vary but suggest around 33% of all journeys in The Netherlands are made by bicycle compared to the U.K's pitiful 2%. Yet in the years 2007 to 2013, the economy of The Netherlands has fared much better than ours, so maybe we can learn something here?
In fact, Dutch and Danish governments have published documents illustrating how cycling is a benefit to their economies while cars are detrimental. This proves there is a lot more to the cost of running cars and infrastructure than the expenses a driver gets to see.
Many western countries (specifically the UK and USA) are rapidly becoming the capitals of the world for crime and disharmony. I recently watched a video on vimo: https://vimeo.com/76207227
The harmony in this Dutch city is amazing. It is one of the quietest in Europe, and people take to the parks and cafes in peace and harmony. The Dutch recently reported that they are even closing some of their prisons because they are not needed. Meanwhile in the UK and USA, we haven't got enough prisons and many crimes are going either unpunished or improperly punished.
As most of us know, The Netherlands is the world's cycling capital and the system there is infinitely better than most. Isn't it obvious that their reduced dependency on cars is sending out a message that we should be listening to? Why do we want to subscribe to disorder and disharmony?
This doesn't even mean we have to give up cars. The Netherlands has more cars per head than the UK, so The Netherlands' strategy isn't anti-car, it is pro cycling/pedestrianisation.
We could achieve it if we wanted to and really made the effort.
But I need a car because...
Yep, you've heard it all before, but people are still trying to make excuses and falsely debunk the topic rather than take any responsibility for their own actions. Whether or not you believe our use of cars are directly responsible for global warming or not, no-one in their right mind could deny that our car usage is a negative factor with regards to the environment.
People have even tried proposing that the extra effort to make journeys under our own steam (such as cycling or walking) increases CO2 as a result of additional effort and the associated respiratory process. They even go as far as to say that it's just as bad as car usage.
The problem with that theory, is it doesn't paint the full picture. When we exert ourselves, we compensate by eating more vegetation (albeit possibly indirectly), this vegetation depends on the extra CO2 that we breath out, thus creating a sustainable cycle.
The CO2 we exhale was fueled by vegetation which was grown in recent history, (the plants we eat, or the animals that feed on it that we then eat) and there is therefore no net addition of CO2 to the atmosphere. However, the carbon emitted from motor vehicles was sequestrated millions of years ago through organic matter and became oil as the remains of the plants and animals trapped in sediments became transformed. So this counts as CO2 added to the atmosphere, thus adding to the greenhouse effect.
This is unfortunately information that many would rather dismiss as hearsay and continue with a material solution that best suits their comfortable lifestyle while firmly believing the blame sits elsewhere.
I have encountered conspiracy theorists that would also have you believe that chem-trails and other secret plots are the root cause of environmental breakdown. But again, even if there are some truths behind all this, it is still also an opportunity for them to adopt a sensationalized allocation of blame instead of accepting some of the responsibility themselves.
CO2 aside, what about all the other rubbish that comes out of an exhaust? Only a couple of days ago, I looked at a "reason for death" report from the U.S where it focused on car owners where they had started their engine and left it running in a closed garage to warm the inside of the vehicle before venturing out in the cold air. The CO (Carbon Monoxide) plus all the other toxins were fatal to them. And most instances were only after just a few minutes of the engine running in a confined space.
Let's next think about the estimated 1,000,000,000 cars that are being driven every single day worldwide (set to quadruple by the middle of the century). Think of all that CO, CO2 and other rubbish (Nitrogen dioxide, Sulphur dioxide, Benzene, Formaldehyde, Polycyclic hydrocarbons, Lead, Tiny suspended particles etc) coming out of those exhaust pipes! I challenge anyone to try to tell me this is not detrimental to the environment, regardless of their feelings around CO2.
On the topic of CO2, many will try to debunk the damage it's doing to our planet by saying that our plants need CO2 to thrive, and producing extra CO2 will encourage plant growth. But then we need oxygen to breath, but to increase oxygen to levels higher than 79% would become toxic and we would all be hallucinating and having difficulty coordinating. Under pressure, it can even be fatal!
Now... I am fully aware that there are a lot of other industrial ventures worldwide that also contribute to this problem. But are we really prepared to use one environmental detriment to justify another? Unfortunately and very sadly; many do!
Also, environmental impact goes way beyond just the poisons that get pumped into the atmosphere. What about roads? We have plenty, what we also have is too many people wanting their cars necessitating the construction of even more roads. What about the associated desecration of countryside and the eradication of wildlife?
Look at all the oil spills, like that one in the gulf of Mexico 3 years ago.
I am not suggesting we can give up oil overnight, because that would be like jumping back into the dark ages. But if those that are able (like me), were to be less adamant about their use of cars, the global reduction on our demand for oil would start to become significant.
This would force our governments to start looking at better options (whether they want to or not). But the way things are going currently, it's a desperate and constant rush for oil, and governments are willing to declare war on each other's countries to get it!
With the modern technology we have at our fingertips, I doubt if there is anything in oil that we couldn't get from cleaner means if we put our minds to it. But the big corporations and super rich won't bother with any of this all the time society is willing to play into their hands and make it easy for them.
Am I a hypocrite?
I hear quite a lot of people saying things like "I need a car in case of an emergency like my child having an accident" or "I need to take my child to football or other club". While I agree that having the comfort of knowing you have a car in such a scenario, is owning a car over many years and the serious problems they are causing justified? Most people's arguments pro-car are the result of what they feel they want rather than what it means to society.
30+ years ago, we didn't all have cars, and I know back then we had more local hospitals and emergency services. But thanks to many people owning or having constant access to cars, this has enabled those that control society to centralize many services such as hospitals, shops and recreational activities etc all while increasing their own financial well-being while eliminating small family-run businesses.
The way this centralization has transpired is entirely the result of society's willingness to give in to the motorcar. The big corps that run society are getting bigger, stronger and richer all because of our lack of perspective and self-focused convenience without looking at the bigger picture.
Let’s look at a possible future scenario...
It is plain to see that the centralization of services that we all depend is the result of the motor car. The more we give in to our cars, the worse this situation will get.
Once the centralization of all major services is maximized, we will be totally and irreversibly dependent on the motor car which unlike public transport, is currently subsidized.
What happens once we are so dependent on this scenario, then the current subsidization is turned around and motoring is taxed more effectively? That will put many families in a very difficult situation, far more difficult than life without a car at present.
Quite frequently, people have called me a hypocrite because occasionally I may resort to using a car or engage in other CO2 producing activity. But am I a hypocrite, or is their accusation just baseless retaliation?
Are we saying that if someone uses a car once every 3 months, then they might as well use it every day including driving to the shops less than a mile away?
We could also say that I am a hypocrite if I have a boiler at home to heat my house as it is detrimental to the environment. So again, is this a justified excuse to also buy a car and start driving it every day?
The answer is a resounding NO of course! The trouble is, some people just continue to use their bad habits as an excuse to continue with more.
Many collaborate on social networking sites, take to the streets in protest, cling to conspiracy theories, but how many of these people are just pointing the finger instead of taking responsibilities for their own actions? Whether we like it or not, many are actually fueling the situation and playing an equal part in the problem to which they claim to oppose.