The costs of running a car will continue to increase, and the question has to be asked. Could you manage without your own car? Would you be better off sharing a car, getting a taxi, or using public transport?
Economically, socially and environmentally the car is a weapon of mass destruction that we have the ability to disarm.
High traffic speeds suppress cycling and walking. A MORI poll found that 44% of people said they would cycle more if roads were safer and 26% would travel less by car if the conditions for walking locally were better. High traffic speed not only intimidates cyclists and pedestrians, but the higher the speed, the greater the severity of injury or impact.
Globally, transport is responsible for about a fifth of greenhouse gas emissions. At present, cars and other vehicles in the United Kingdom release over one hundred million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the air.
The United Kingdom is now the most car-dependent country in Europe. Over three-quarters of road-journeys made in the United Kingdom are under five miles (which is when the engine will be cold and running at its lowest efficiency). Car use may give us temporary convenience, but the cost to the environment and our long-term health is far too high.
Redirecting the billions of pounds that are earmarked for road building toward traffic-reduction policies, including public transport, pedestrian and cycling facilities would make a significant contribution towards reducing carbon dioxide and end the huge climatic impact of building the roads themselves.
1. Walk, cycle, use a moped or use public transport
60% of car journeys are less than 5 miles, where you can walk or cycle. It's good for you as well as the environment. Join your local cycle campaign and petition your local council for cycle-ways, particularly on major roads in towns and cities. Use public transport as your first choice. For those who can't cycle electric cycles and mopeds are another option.
The school run accounts for a sizeable amount of morning ‘rush' hour traffic. Organise a ‘walking bus' and walk to school with your friends. According to research conducted for Bike to School Week 2008, on average cyclists live for 2 years longer than non-cyclists.
130 million bicycles were manufactured in 2007 according to the Earth Policy Institute. This is more than double the number of cars manufactured. The cycle industry is growing at twice the pace of the automotive industry.
Living Streets/Pedestrians Assoc. - 31-33 Bondway, London, SW8 1SJ.
Tel: 020 7820 1010. www.livingstreets.org.uk
Plus - The UK Walk to School campaign - www.walktoschool.org.uk
2. Join the campaign groups that are lobbying for better public transport in urban and rural areas
Many local pedestrians, cycle, bus, train and tram groups exist. All are lobbying for better services. Give them your financial support, write letters in support, or join the group most appropriate to your local transport needs.
Cycle Campaigning Network - 54-57 Alison Street, Digbeth, Birmingham, B55TH. www.cyclenetwork.org.uk
Rail Future - 13 Arnhill Road, Gretton, Corley, Northants, NN17 3DN. www.railfuture.org.uk
The loss of access to services, reduction in transport and the associated increase in car dependency hit those on low incomes hardest. Rural schools, local shops and post offices need to be protected.
Cars are the single most energy-intensive product we own. Manufacturing an average car produces five tonnes of carbon dioxide of which only one tonne is recovered when the car is scrapped. Currently the average UK car lasts for thirteen years.
Diesel is more efficient than petrol in terms of mileage. By driving a diesel car you can save up to 10% of the carbon emissions that would come from burning petrol. However, diesel produces other air borne particulates, which are associated with asthma and lung disease.
Liquid petroleum gas (LPG) cars generate less CO2 than petrol-engines, but about the same as diesel engines without the particulates. There are more than a 1,000 LPG refuelling stations in the UK.
Hybrids Increasingly, cars are being developed that run on electricity for short journeys (city use) and petrol on the open road. Some use battery charging units, others have begun to recharge automatically by using the kinetic energy generated by braking. These were very expensive, but the prices are falling.
3. Organise a car share, or halve your carbon impact by adding a second passenger
Public transport is more efficient because groups of people are travelling in the same vehicle. Adding a second passenger to a solo journey halves the environmental impact and takes another vehicle of the streets reducing traffic congestion and emissions. The average car in the UK emits 180kg of CO2 every Kilometre. Smaller cars can get the level down to around 130kg.
Car sharing, whether offering a lift to work, for shopping expeditions or holidays, is an immediate step you can take to combat the greenhouse effect. Sharing ownership of a car between a group of friends saves energy and reduces the number of cars on the road.
Smart Moves (UK car clubs) - Lindsay House,11 Southbrook Terrace, West End, Bradford, West Yorkshire. BD7 1AD. Tel: 0845 330 1234. www.smartmoves.co.uk
Liftshare.com Ltd - Butterfly Hall, Attleborough, Norfolk, England. NR17 1AB
Tel: 08700 780225 - www.liftshare.org
4. Run the smallest most fuel-efficient vehicle and make the optimum use of it
See if you can organise your tasks all into one day. Would sharing or hiring a car occasionally suffice? If you own a car, can you offer a car share? A car with four or more people in it can have lower carbon emissions per passenger than a train. So, it may be that if you share/hire the least polluting car and use it wisely you can keep your carbon emissions low.
5. Use bio-fuels that have been recycled
All over the UK there are small companies producing bio-diesel that has been made from waste cooking oil, which you can put directly into your car. Avoid bio-diesel that is being manufactured from palm oil, beet or other crops grown specifically for fuel.
Crop based fuel production is taking up valuable food growing land and relies on major inputs of fossil-fuel energy for the production and use of fertilisers and pesticides, and for transport and shipping. It also tends to be owned and controlled by large corporations.
For example, Tesco is a major shareholder in and customer of Greenenergy Biofuels Ltd., a company promising customer's climate-friendly, sustainable biofuels from UK rapeseed oil. The organisation Biofuelwatch has revealed that Green-energy's biofuels contain increasing amounts of palm oil, soy and sugar cane. All three are crops linked to large-scale rainforest destruction, massive greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and peat and forest fires, and human rights abuses.
There are also concerns that it takes more energy to grow biofuels than the energy eventually created by burning them.
"The corn required to fill the tank of 4x4 vehicle with bioethanol just once could feed one person for a year"
Lester Brown, US commentator, activist on food politics
Bio Fuel Watch - www.biofuelwatch.org.uk
6. Keep you car in peak running condition and avoid city driving
A vehicle service every five thousand miles or so will keep your vehicle operating at maximum efficiency. Use radial tyres and check their pressure at least once a month. Well-maintained tyres can save up to 10% in fuel.
For the greatest fuel economy, drive at a steady speed between 40-50 miles per hour (check your manual for exact model details). Driving at 60 miles per hour or more can lower fuel efficiency by up to 30%. Convenience options like power steering decrease fuel economy in two ways - they add to the weight and need additional power to run the equipment. City driving consumes twice as much fuel as motorway driving. If you commute long distances to work, or want to get into a city, then use the park and ride systems that exist in many cities.
7. Encourage car free cities, organise car-free days & go slow
The largest use of public space in cities is for cars. Cities without cars could have large areas of free park and food growing capacity.
The more we encourage the removal of cars from cities and towns, the faster the switch to public transport will occur. Speak out in favour of pedestrian areas and congestion charges, and against unwarranted private car use, and lobby your local council to re/design your town/city with car use given the lowest priority.
World Carfree Network - Kratka 26, 100 00 Prague 10, Czech Republic www.carfree.com
Ask your local authority, to make your village, neighbourhood, city centre car-free on Sundays (or any other suitable day). Encourage the debate about how to get people healthy and break our dependence on oil.
A pedestrian hit by a vehicle travelling at 40mph has a 15% chance of survival; if hit at 20mph they have a 95% chance of survival.
Slower Speeds Initiative - PO Box 19, Hereford, HR1 1XJ.
RoadPeace PO Box. 2579, London, NW10 3PW. Tel: 0845 4500 355. www.roadpeace.org
8. Lobby for car- and lorry-free zones in inner cities and other restrictions on car-use in the city and in the countryside
Write and petition for a ban on heavy lorries in towns and cities, especially at weekends and at night. Not only does this reduce the damage being done by heavy lorries, pedestrian precincts make the inner city a much more pleasant place. Properly enforced speed restrictions on roads increase safety. So why not join your local residents association or set up your own local group. Green lanes with speed restrictions make the countryside a safer place and more attractive to visitors.
Sustrans - 2 Cathedral Square, college Green, Bristol, BS15DD.
Tel: 0117 929 8893. www.sustrans.org.uk
Campaign for Better Transport/Streets for People - The Impact Centre, 12-18 Hoxton Street, London, N1 6NG. Tel: 020 76130743. www.transport2000.org.uk
- Greenpeace - Canonbury Villas, Islington, London, N1 2PN. Tel: 0207 8658100
- Campaign to Protect Rural England - 128 Southwark Street, London, SE1 0SW. Tel: 020 7981 2800. www.cpre.org.uk
- National Federation of Bus Users - PO Box 320, Portsmouth, PO5 3SD.
Tel: 023 9281 4493. www.nfbu.org
- Dept. for Transport - Great Minster House, 76 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DR. Tel: 020 7944 8300. www.dft.gov.uk
- British Association for Bio-fuels and Oils (BABFO) - Curlew Court, Guy's Head, Sutton Bridge, Spalding, Lincs, PE12 9QQ.
Tel: 01406 350848. www.biodiesel.co.uk
- Liquid Petroleum Gas Association - Pavilion 16, Headlands business park,
Salisbury road, Ringwood, Hampshire, BH24 3PP. www.lpga.co.uk
- Environmental Transport Association - 69 High Street, Weybridge, KT13 8RS. Tel: 01932 828 882. www.eta.co.uk
- AcoRP (Association of Community Rail Partnerships) - Rail and River Centre, Canal Side, Civic Hall, 15a New Street, Slaithwaite, Huddersfield, HD7 5AB. Tel: 01484 847790 - www.acorp.uk.com
- Rail Passengers Council - Passenger Focus, FREEPOST (RRRE-ETTC-LEET), PO BOX 4257, Manchester, M60 3AR. Tel: 08453 022 022 - www.passengerfocus.org
- London TravelWatch - 6 Middle Street. London EC1A 7JA
Tel: 020 7505 9000 - www.londontravelwatch.org.uk
Briefing funded by the Norfolk Independent Waste Trust and Cobb Charity
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