Two years ago, my (Becky Tuke) car was written off on my way to graduation. While I had previously commuted by bike and bus quite regularly, it took a car crash to convince me that perhaps I could live without a car. I gave it a go for a month and have not looked back since. I have massively reduced my reliance on cars; however I cannot claim to be completely car-free, as I carpool with others sometimes and borrow a car on the odd occasion. Without being forced to try it, I am not sure that I would have committed to giving this a go.
I have estimated some of the benefits that I have experienced from not having a car in the last two years, see below. I have done this for trips that I used to always do in my own car and now do by either cycling or walking. I have not included additional ‘recreational’ trips because I continue to travel by various means for these. So, these benefits are pretty conservative:
During the Covid-19 lockdown, we all experienced a mass trial of reduced car travel. I have personally enjoyed our quieter streets – it reminded me of ‘el paseo’, a Spanish tradition of a stroll around the streets in the evening, which I experienced during my travels a few years back. It is much more social (not normally physically distanced) and cheerful, with positive community vibes.
Last week I tuned into a webinar called “Rethinking the Street” hosted by CoMotion, a global transportation and technology platform. The webinar was a timely and thought-provoking discussion about using the Covid-19 crisis to open up city streets for people during and after the pandemic response. What resonated most for me was Bronwen Thornton (CEO of the UK’s Walk21) highlighting the impact of experiential learning, also known as learning by doing.
Lockdown strengthened my understanding of the role that streets have as public space. When Level 2 came into effect last week, it was the first time in seven weeks that I could hear continuous traffic from my desk at home. While we are lucky to have more freedom now, will we make the most of our experiences over the last couple of months? Will you consider leaving your car at home and taking another mode of transport to get to where you need to be? A crash was my catalyst to travel by bike and by foot more often, will Covid-19 be yours?
Blog written by Becky Tuke, Transportation Engineer