Today is World Car Free Day. Admittedly, it’s idealistic to think that we could get rid of cars. However, is it utopic to think that we might be able to reduce the number of cars on the road? Could we reduce by 10%? How about by half?
The problem is, you might be willing to admit, that cars are part necessity but also part, and a big part, self-esteem. We like the feeling of getting into that highly designed, well crafted, technologically juiced, prestige branded cruiser. Remember the feeling of driving off the sales lot with your fresh smelling new addition to the family? There is an unmistakable rush of adrenaline that you will never forget. The smoothness, the smell, the eyes watching you drive by; you deserve it.
And yet, though I admit I have been an addict, I am currently car free. Two years have passed since I owned my own car. I take the metro, the bus, occasionally cabs and when I really need to, I rent one. Will I ever own a car again? The truth is that we are considering getting one because my daughter’s university campus is too far for daily public transportation. And yes, sometimes it is nice to just get in the car and drive to a mall or a movie with wife and daughters in tow.
But let me be clear, my perfect world is one in which transport makes sense and I’m sorry but when I see people commuting to work daily, my insanity alarm bells ring. How is it possible that we would all need to get into fossil fueled vehicles designed for five people and do so alone? Car after car, morning after morning, has but one person, maybe two. Sure, there are some car poolers but in the US, car pool capital of the world one would assume, cities range in the 6% to 10% of cars being carpoolers of two or more people.
My perfect transport universe sees things differently. I see a world with genuine public transport. I see a world with one seater personal transport vehicles (maybe we can call it something new like a ‘Oner’). I see a world in which we work longer days but maybe fewer of them making us do the commute one or two days less a week. I have friends and family who do this. They work for large corporations and organizations who do not want full work from home but are happy to have their trusted workers telecommute one or two days a week.
In short, today is Car Free Day and it might be a good idea to ponder alternatives. It might be a time to at least realize that our transportation paradigm does not currently make sense. It might be a time to find other sources of self-esteem and self-realization. Maybe having our own tin on wheels can be passé? Maybe we can tap into a renewed sense of pride in sharing our travels rather than having our own. Heck, imagine a sky filled with personal planes. It might sound sexy to live the high life but would it make sense? Does it make sense to you, even if you can afford it? Is cutting a few minutes or a couple of hours even, off your trip worth the environmental cost?
I vote for a “New Transport Paradigm Day”.
I’ll leave you with this one thought. Years ago, I met a guy who owned a small company. He told his staff that if they all took public transport into work, that he would buy five shining new sports cars and that on weekends, these cars could be borrowed on a rotating basis by all his staff, from janitor to VP. It worked and it was fun. Hmm.