The Tyranny of the Car

May 29 2024
The Tyranny of the Car

When I waited all of 10 minutes for my near-silent air conditioned electric bus ride back home from Lidl a few days ago, I again played the 'count the single occupant cars' game. Yes, still a ratio of approx 75-80% single occupant journeys. In Malta the addiction to private car ownership is almost at breaking point, with regular gridlock around the island considered a normal event. But of course it is only heavy taxation, parking fees and fines, superior road planning that is not 'car-first', and the much better provision of public transport that prevents the same thing happening in urban areas of other countries. Everyone is addicted to their cars and years of expectation that people can live in places without buses or trains or decent cycling routes means that most people think this is normal. Malta won't change anytime soon, because it's political suicide to opt for non car-first policies. I'm considered as a bit mad or senile to be a non-driver here in Malta, and to be honest it is a major reason to leave the islands. I yearn for roads where cycling is safe, where buses are not so often jam packed no matter the time of day (due to terrible traffic destroying timetable schedules), where trains run (even the overpriced ones in the UK), where pedestrian crossings are safely provided where they are needed and where pavements exist reliably.

The beast of personal transport over-consumerism

The global market 'driving industry' is a capitalist paradise, there are endless opportunities to fleece everyone. The requirement to

  • Learn to drive (pay the driving school)
  • Buy (or rent) a car
  • Pay insurance
  • Pay road tax
  • Pay parking fees
  • Pay maintenance etc
  • Sell your car and buy another ....
  • Ad infinitum

And no one much cares about the air pollution, the terrible cost to the planet, the uglyfication and inefficiency of our car-centric towns and cities, the road deaths and serious accidents. The total impact on our lives by the tyranny of the car never stops and is killing us all.

Negative versus positive

So, why am I a non-driver? I think my non-driving attitude began because of my form tutor Mr Bromley, who was a non driver. He told us there were enough cars in the world, they didn't need him adding to the mess and chaos, pollution and dangerous roads. That was the early 70s. He was a nice man who was kind and considerate to me during a very difficult time, and his words about cars and driving really went home. The way my mother was treated as a non driver trying to learn (I cant go into that here but suffice to say, not good) made me realise that car driving was not for me. When I came to London, I worked for a man who was also a non driver, because he'd been driving a minibus full of kids on a holiday when they'd had an accident and some of the children were quite badly injured. He never drove again. Later still, a friend from work died in a horrific cycling accident in town, squashed like a bug by a lorry that couldn't see him, because of the roads being so packed with cars and trucks and whatever. This death decimated the work team he was part of, they were never the same after that and we all miss him, he was a lovely guy. And that was truck versus cycle.

So no, I don't drive. It does not mean I am an imbecile, it means I am a more advanced human. Take the Dutch. They have realised this simple fact and completely changed a lot of their transport infrastructure. They don't consider themselves communists or mad hippies for doing this, they realised it was better to live like that. Their population is much healthier because of the regular exercise from cycling. The air is much cleaner, the roads are emptier, so delivery trucks can be more efficient if they are needed. Buses can be on time. If you do need to use your car, you still can, (it's not illegal to own a car), but people's mindset has been changed, to see how much better non reliance on cars is.

Future inevitability of two wheel personal transport

You don't need to just have ordinary bicycles, you can have any kind of super modern fantastic ebike variation. 2 wheeled transport is far superior in every way for single person journeys (or like the Dutch do, use kiddy bike trailers!). If you do have a driver's licence, you can have a motorbike, also a fine example of much more efficient transport (though motorbikes are still pretty bad for the environment). Like cycling, it is largely only dangerous because of cars (or trucks). Dedicated transport design for 2 wheeled transport is the only future we have so get used to it and plan for it. Some of us have been doing this all our lives.

Image: Unsplash/Himiway Bikes

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