Jane Devine: Giving up my car will be good for me and my neighbours
I’M NOT one for resolutions at New Year, or indeed any time. My usual attempts to give up chocolate, which happen sporadically throughout the year, always end up with me convincing myself that I don’t really eat that much, and what’s the harm of a bar a day anyway.
But this year is different. I am kicking off 2013 with a house move from a rural village in the Borders to a flat in the city centre of Edinburgh and I’ve decided to change more than location: I’m giving up my car.
This is a huge change for me. I was brought up in a rural community in the north-east of Scotland. Nether Dallachy was five miles from a bus stop and a car was a lifeline. Everyone I knew craved driving lessons for their 17th birthday and long before that were saving for a car of their own. I’ve had a car (or access to a car) ever since: 19 years of independent travel and it’s all about to stop.
I have a bike, two feet, bus stops at the end of my street and I will travel. There’s no need for me to have a car in the city: all the big supermarkets deliver, the kids can walk to school, I can cycle to work and almost everything else is on my doorstep.
It’s not just a question of whether or not it is easier to get by without a car though, I have many reasons for this decisions.
First, financial. To tax, insure and maintain a car, never mind park it and put fuel in it, the RAC estimate an annual cost of £4,724. For journeys where there is no public transport alternative, I can hire a car from the Edinburgh City Car Club, which costs £60 a year to join, just over a fiver an hour per hire and 23p a mile including fuel. It’s an obvious choice.
Secondly, it’s healthier: I don’t want my kids growing up thinking that their right foot is for an accelerator pedal.
Thirdly, it’s safer: by the time I was 20, three young men from my year group at school, of fewer than 30 pupils, were dead – killed in road accidents.
But there are other reasons too, ones that might not have a direct and immediate impact on me and my family, but which will have an impact in years to come if more and more people follow suit.
Ditching the car is good for communities: research has shown a direct correlation between numbers of cars in a street and the number of people known to their neighbours by name; it supports local businesses as people are less likely to go out of town for shopping; and it will enable my family to play our part in reducing congestion and improving air quality by taking one vehicle off the road.
All I need is a good waterproof jacket with a hood and a hairdo that can survive any weather – that will be the tricky part.