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  • stevecowles

Is mixed-mode travel viable/beneficial?

When I had a car, I used it for almost all of my transport ‘needs’, I just hopped in and went whether that be a short trip to a local shop or a journey of many hours.


My car reached the end of its life during the pandemic, I wasn’t going anywhere so did not replace it at the time. Since then I’ve largely been working from home with occasional office visits (an 80-mile round trip) and I've still not replaced the car. Why not?

Presumably, my experience has taught me something, I now find that I now choose the best mode or combination of modes of transport for each journey (walk, bike, bus, train). I can also rent a car if I need to. Overall this has proved to be significantly cheaper.


There was a ‘learning period’, it was not a simple case of replacing one car trip with one bike trip to the same place for example. I now shop more in local or high street shops, it costs a few pence more but this is easily offset by the savings from not owning a car, it is more pleasant and goods are often of a higher quality. I'm also more likely to make a trip 'multi-purpose' rather than going on repeated short car journeys.


I accept that cars can be very useful, I'm not anti-car (I'd driven in excess of 1,000,000 miles prior to the pandemic and even used to race them) but I do think that as a society we are too keen to see them as the only way of getting around simply because they are there when often they are not really the best method for the particular journey. Obviously, we are also reluctant to spend on an alternative if our car is parked on our drive.


I think we are missing a point here. We complain about the rapid decline in our town centres and the resulting negative change in the way our society operates and interacts and we are becoming increasingly insular with all of the problems which that brings.


The fact is that small or high-street business benefits hugely from public transport, walking and cycling. Countless studies from across the world show how much more is spent locally per visit by non-car users. Only large corporations with large out-of-town stores benefit from car-dependent shopping and this drives the ongoing decline.


I’d like to see a massive investment in local public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure. Our society as a whole would improve significantly as has been seen in some European cities (particularly but not exclusively in Holland). Car-share schemes could also be hugely beneficial and avoid each household having to bear the cost of depreciation associated with owning their own car, again these are starting to become more common in counties not far from us, and some government support for these could make a real difference.


From a personal perspective, I certainly feel healthier, wealthier and happier. It will never suit everyone but there does not need to be the one size fits all ‘solution’ that a car gives us. Each car a family does without is going to save them up to £4,000 per year on average and that is the same as one hell of a pay rise once the tax is taken into account! Not everyone is like me and some will need a car for the foreseeable future but it would be good to see more realistic alternatives.


The transition from fossil fuels to renewables is a linked but separate thing in my view, in fact in many ways it looks like turning into a once-in-a-century opportunity missed.


Not to put too fine a point on it, if your local politicians are backing more out-of-town retail developments they are either ignorant of the real issues or on the take. They are certainly not your friend so chase them out of power.

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