Friday, September 09, 2005

Living without a Car

This blog has become very peculiar in that it is about cars, and I no longer use a car. Because I have moved to London and am just starting out in my career, I can neither afford one, nor see the use of one. If I were to buy a vehicle for transportation, it would most likely be a motorcycle or scooter at this point.

This is the first time in four years that I have not had my own car. It isn't too strange of a feeling for me because through college I also did not have a car. I am used to living with a city's public transportation system.

It's quite obvious that cars have immense advantages to public transportation. Probably the most important is safety from the elements, and then closely followed by safety from others. Public transportation forces you to interact with your environment in sometimes uncomfortable ways.

Living in a city with as dense a population as London means having a car would be not only expensive, but a great hassle. Parking is a rare find, and being able to legally park on a street without getting towed or a ticket is quite expensive due to the cost of the sticker that allows you to park there. Though there are probably millions of cars in cities like New York, Chicago, Paris, and London, a car's true usefulness is left to wider open spaces. As human populations move closer and closer together, the vehicles we use as transport "downsize". This is a necessity.

As I walk around, I use muscles I normally wouldn't use too often, see things more closely that would normally whizz right by my sight in a car, and smell and hear things I normally would have drowned out by a combination of my car's sound system and air conditioning. I must be honest, it's a good feeling. Even though I love cars, and the auto industry, and will continue to read about it religiously, I feel that I should be making use of what is left of my youth by actually experiencing the world and community around me. A car much of the time destroys that. In a sense this was one of the reasons why I wished to move out of Los Angeles, where I grew up. Los Angeles is the antithesis to community, and the very definition of urban sprawl. Cars have become little fortresses steaming along plain looking highways and byways, the individuals within them oblivious to the fortunes and misfortunes of their fellow citizens.

So I will continue to write about cars, though I am undoubtedly now a hypocrite. But I will not drive them. At least for the time being.

I don't think not using a car despite running this blog makes you a hypocrite. There are occasions where public transport is more suitable (eg, any travel in central London during normal work/leisure hours) and times when cars are more appropriate (eg, interurban transport where public transport is unavailable). You happen to be based in an area now that's unsuitable for cars.

The future of the car can only be assured (ironically) by greater investment in public transport. It is only by people using public transport as much as possible that the roads will be able to cope with predicted travel needs. That will require car-owners to use public transport when it's the best way to get around as well - not just those who don't have or can't afford cars.
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