I’ve been cheered over the last month or so to see more people online talking about how we are going to have to cut back on car use. The only way to deal with congestion, is if more people drive less. I’m so glad to see growing recognition that building roads does not solve this problem. We need to tackle our dire air pollution – which is killing people. We need to square up to the way driving impacts on climate chaos. We also can’t simply replace current cars with electric ones, because there are rare earths currently needed for electric cars and the planet can’t afford us over-consuming those, either.
What needs to happen next is that we need to start getting excited about the implications of a mass cutback on car travel. So, here are some benefits to contemplate.
Reduced noise pollution. How much nicer and less stressful human environments are when we aren’t bombarded by car noise!
Less air pollution – which will help with respiratory diseases, and maybe make colds a bit less awful, and improve our life expectancies.
Less time wasted commuting. How much time does a person who sits in traffic squander in a state of frustration as they breathe in the toxins from the other cars around them? Think how much quality of life could be improved by reclaiming that time!
Being bodily and mentally healthier – getting about on foot or on a bike helps reduce stress and keeps us fit. This is a great life improver, and with fewer cars on the road, walking and cycling will become safer and nicer to do.
It’s more social – if you’re on public transport or on foot, you meet people. You might even talk to them in passing and make friends with them. Loneliness is a modern western epidemic and cars don’t help us with that.
If you don’t drive to work and for leisure, you have to be more involved with your local community. People are often less willing to shit where they eat, and being more involved with the people around us builds communities and gives us better lives. If we go over to car sharing or other, more communal systems, this also requires us to be more co-operative, which is good. We’d have to restructure so that accessing key resources was less car dependent. This would be good, and would inject life and opportunities back into small towns and villages.
It saves money. Cars cost money to buy, fuel and maintain. How many people are pushed into sudden debt because of an unexpected car expense?
Being safer. Every year many people are killed and injured through car use. Think of the pain, stress, misery and grief we could end if we got more people out of their cars.
Get people off the roads, and driving will be less stressful and dangerous for those few who really need to do it. It’ll be easier to move emergency vehicles around at need as well.