So here we are in 2020, and this is the year we try and do without a car. Eco-warrior I am not. I won’t be gluing myself to trains anytime soon, and I haven’t embraced veganism to reduce our carbon footprint, but, well, it seemed to make sense. And if as a side effect of this decision we end up using slightly less fossil fuels, lightening our carbon footprint a bit, what’s not to like? We won’t turn back global warming single handed, but who was the bloke who said that because we can do little, it does not follow that we should nothing?
Let me explain. The agreement on the current car runs out at the end of January, so it was a time for change anyway. What we have at the moment is a diesel, which was just about OK when we bought it three years ago but is now the devil incarnate, so we’d have had to change it for something else, preferably electric or hybrid. But, sticking with the same manufacturer, that was going to be just as expensive as the sporty little number we have now, and with me retired and thinking about stopping work altogether inside the next year or so, we needed an agreement which wasn’t going to eat up the monthly pension in one gulp.
Which got us to thinking, how much do we really need a car? We live about a hundred yards away from a railway station, with my work three stops in one direction (and the hospital where I work is similarly about 100 yards from a station), and the centre of town four stops in the other. There is a frequent bus service into the centre of town which is now free, for me at least with my bus pass. Getting out into the country and around about to the posher supermarkets we like for some of their produce (Lidl and Morrison’s are easy walking distance) presents more of a challenge, but, well, there’s home delivery if we get desparate for taleggio or vine-ripened tomatoes. Walking is an important part of our lives, and getting to where we want to walk presents a challenge without a car, but if we absolutely need one for a trip, these days you can hire one by the hour, the day or the weekend without too much trouble, there are car clubs, and there is a budget rental office about half a mile away. And the money we’d save not making the monthly payments, the road tax, insurance and servicing would far outweigh the cost of the occasional car hire or taxi.
So we thought we’d give it a go, see if we could survive without a car for a year. Get rid of this one, and just not get another one as we always have done.
Now, I know this isn’t for everyone. We don’t, for instance, have small children to transport around the place. We don’t have to get to several different workplaces dotted around the country. We don’t live three miles down a farm track or in a remote village with two buses a day. So I am very aware that I am making a virtue out of a set of circumstances that happen to suit our particular situation, and my reason for sharing the experience with you is not to be evangelical about giving up the car, but just to share how it feels and see how we get on.
Will, for instance, my natural idleness take over when it comes to planning a walk round the park around the train timetable, instead of jumping into the car when it suits, so we end up doing less than we used to? Will we feel trapped or liberated? I imagine we’ll feel liberated when from the train window we catch sight of the tailbacks on the M6 as we speed past, and trapped when we are waiting on a freezing platform for a train that doesn’t arrive, or sharing the last train home with a bunch of rowdy drunks. But who’s to say, and what will the balance be between those two extremes?
I’ll try and let you know from time to time.