Australians, New Zealanders, Americans and the British love their cars.
The predominant mode of travel nationally, in all these countries, is as a driver or passenger in a private car and this trend continues to grow, whilst use of all other modes is stagnant or has declined.
We are almost all overly dependent on cars for almost all trips. In Australia, more than 80 percent of all trips are made by car and in New Zealander 83 percent of trips less than 2km are made by car. A British Social Attitudes Survey found that 71 percent of adults never cycle. Only 3 percent of Brits cycle every day or nearly every day.
For many the car is the most convenient, comfortable, clean and controlled way to travel. The car is usually parked right outside the front door. Many car drivers drive around with three or four empty seats in their car. There are reports that there are as many as 38 million empty car seats on the UK’s roads every rush hour.
For years car-pooling (private cars shared by more than one person) has been touted as simple, cost effective solution to ease gridlock, congestion, queues and traffic delays. Carpooling is also an option to achieve reductions in single-occupancy car trips. I don’t disagree.
Drivers and passengers are usually invited to connect, to offer and search for journeys, using workplace notice boards, community newsletters, social media, websites, smart phone app’s and carpooling agencies.
But, is the execution and implementation really that straight-forward?
Often Councils and Governments ask people who work in large companies to find a car-pooling buddy within their organisation. In theory that sounds simple. In practice it means walking the floors and corridors of a large office or commercial building asking colleagues and co-workers if they live anywhere near you. In reality, it’s a time-consuming endeavour.
If that doesn’t work the alternative is to find people living in the same or adjoining suburb who are commuting in a similar direction, along the same road corridors. The thing is, most people don’t know their neighbours, let along where they work. 1 in 5 people in the UK have never spoken to their neighbours. Let’s be realistic. Very few people are prepared – or brave enough – to wander their local streets ringing doorbells to find a potential carpool buddy.
So how do we connect?
The Big Lunch is a very simple idea from the Eden Project. The aim is to get as many people as possible across the whole of the UK to have lunch with their neighbours annually on the first Sunday in June. The Eden Project started The Big Lunch in the belief that we, as a society, are better equipped to tackle the challenges that we face when we face them together.
In 2017, 9.3 million people took part in The Big Lunch, taking to their streets and community spaces in over 90,000 registered events. The Big Lunch connects people and encourages friendlier, safer neighbourhoods where people start to meet, connect and share more. 86 percent of participants said it made them feel better about their neighbourhood.
We love our cars. Our cars are convenient and comfortable, but they make us – and keep us – disconnected from our communities.
To break the cycle of car dependency and for carpooling, and other demand responsive and emerging transport options and alternatives, to work and succeed we need our communities and our citizens to be connected. We don’t need people to sell their car and carpool every day. Car-pooling (or using emerging alternatives such as demand responsive transport) once or twice a month would have a significant impact on congestion, gridlock, road capacity and the demand for car parking. None of this is really practical or possible unless we know our neighbours.
Do you agree?