Living without a car

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

A00026g_detailsIt has not totally been my free choice all together to live without a car and the license to drive, I have to admit right from the start.

The truth is that it is forced upon me by circumstance beyond my control, one of which is a medical condition, which means that the UK authorities will not let me have a permit to drive a motorized vehicle.

However, except for some instances, having now been without a car, or any motorized transport for that matter, for most of my life and having had to resort to walking, bicycle and public transport only I do not really feel disadvantaged.

This even more so when one considers, even aside from the price of fuel, the cost of running a car, such as annual tax, insurance, etc., and let's not even talk about the purchase cost of a car.

A bicycle does not need no gasoline or diesel and no tax or insurance is required. Furthermore a bicycle is easy to maintain, service and repair, even and especially by the user him- or herself. And this even more so if, like myself, you use a single-speed bicycle rather than one with the difficult to adjust and maintain Shimano derailleur gear shift system.

I use the bike but I also walk a great deal and if it is too far to walk or even cycle (or the weather is too inclement) I make use of bus, metro or train.

In the not so distant past, before cars became somewhat “affordable” even to the working class, cars were for those who had the money to buy and run them and the time will come again when affording to run a car, and not just the purchase cost, will put personal motoring once again out of the reach of many of not even the majority.

Now that it has become evident that motoring – even though the eco-friends of the 1970s already then told everyone about the pollution issue – is one of the main culprit of global pollution which may be the cause of climate change and the increase in the mean temperatures of the Earth, it is, for me, one more reason to reject, even if I could, owning and running a car.

My good old bicycles – most of them (yes, plural) – rescued and repaired, using other thrown away bikes, are non-polluting and burn far (mine) rather than oil. Using them keeps me fit and not fat.

Yes, there have been times when a car would have come in handy such as when wanting to pick up large items but otherwise I can quite well do without one and I am happy to be car-less.

I keep promising myself that one of these days I will get a bicycle trailer, a proper one and not those flimsy things that get fixed to the side of the bike, one that connects with a ball hitch to the saddle post. But, as said, I keep promising myself that though I have not found the right one as yet and nor have I spent much time looking.

With a trailer it will then be possible to haul a great deal more on the bike even if, at times, it will mean to push it more than to ride it.

It is fair enough to say that it is because I have never really had the use of a car I do not miss it and that is, more than likely true, and anyone changing from car to bicycle or walking (and public transport) would find it rather strange at first and for some time, I am sure.

However, we are seeing more and more people commuting by bicycle even in London and across London and I must say that I would not dare to do that.

Without the proper bicycle infrastructure, which London and most of the UK is still sadly lacking, unlike our neighbors on the European mainland such as the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, and France even, cycling is rather a dangerous undertaking on many of the main roads in British cities and towns and even in the countryside.

While my going car-less, so to speak, was, initially, not of my own free choice and maybe even will it is now something that I consider a good way of living as driving is, aside from industry and the way we generate power, one of the greatest polluters as far as air pollution is concerned and emissions of all kinds, including carbon-dioxide. And many people across the developed world, though we seem to see most of that still only in Europe and especially Germany and countries, especially where fuel is expensive, such as in Britain, are making the transition to living car-less or to using the car less.

There are people in the UK as well who are choosing to go entirely car-less because of the impact that driving has on the Planet and they are becoming more on an almost daily basis.

It is also something, going without a car or using it very occasionally only, that we will have to get used to as, sooner or later, cheap oil (and don't tell someone in Britain that gasoline or diesel is cheap) is going to be history and the alternatives simply do not exist, are worse for us and the Planet than are petroleum products, or, as in the case of the electric car, simply out of the reach of the “ordinary” man or woman.

Unless free energy suddenly will become available a la Tesla I do not think that we will continue to be motoring much in the future and thus I am happy to have been adjusted to this already by simply never having had a license and a car.

© 2014