A Website Celebrating Car-Free Culture

Notes on a Car Free Life

29th March 2023:

For the past few weeks, as I’ve been developing this site, I’ve found myself reflecting over my life, and the reasons why I’ve never learned to drive or owned a car, and what made me different, whether this has hampered my freedom or crippled me in some way, and of the way of life that I’ve always lived as a result. After all, people talk about cars as though they are an initiation into adulthood, as though they represent freedom itself. Men, in particular, get to thinking of their cars as their manhood, and males who don’t drive are deemed less manly.

Women too are less likely to take an interest in you if you don’t drive, as you’re not ‘a real man’, or because you’re not sporting the right car for the look they are after. You’re considered a lot lower in the social rankings, and for a lot of women, societal status is a big factor in what attracts them to men. It’s a real stigma, and when you choose not to drive, as a male, you bear it.

I made a conscious intention never to drive when I was young, because the sight of woodlands and trees being cut down to make way for roads totally outraged and horrified me. It’s a bit like that moment in Lord of the Rings when Treebeard encounters the rampant deforestation that Saraman the White has caused. For me, it was a moment like that. I knew at that moment that my path and the path this society were on were two very different paths. Mine was one where woodlands are loved and valued more than roads, cars and economic activity, whereas this culture’s path was one where nothing mattered except indulgent and narcissistic needs.

I also knew right there and then that I would never drive. Never. I made a vow to myself, that I would stand with the woodlands and all the creatures against this rapacious dung heap of a culture, and never partake in its toxic fruit. And I stuck with it, and never looked back. That was back in 1990, and I’d never heard of climate change, so today there are even more reasons not to drive.

I sometimes think I deserve a medal, or maybe a letter from the Queen. But seriously, it’s something that goes unremarked, and people ignore it, or pass over it, as though it is something not to be discussed or recognised at all. Even environmentalists ignore it, I think because they drive, even though they know they shouldn’t, and when they meet real environmentalists who don’t drive, they prefer to ignore them, as that way they save face. Sometimes they even say that they couldn’t do their job if they didn’t drive, as though that is a perfectly good excuse. But you know what, to hell with jobs, I mean what are we, a bunch of Judas Iscariot’s who sell their souls for a bag of gold coins? Not me, no thanks.

So looking back over my life, I feel like I have made a remarkable achievement, and I salute myself, even if no-one else will.

But there are other issues around not driving that come to mind when I reflect on my life. I recall, for example, a conversation I had during a community project on sustainable transport I was organising some years ago. I was chatting to one of the locals who had been helping out on the project, and they were telling me about why they didn’t use the local buses. They’re expensive, they said, and they don’t always turn up on time.

You hear this sort of thing all the time. I consider them, 90% of the time, to be lame excuses. In this instance, this individual was pretty well off, with a decent sized house whose mortgage had been paid, and with three cars in the drive. I was living hand to mouth doing environmental projects, getting maybe £6k a year, and living in a single room in a shared flat. Yet I used the buses and trains, I’d prefer they were cheaper, but I still used them, and I found having to listen to this person tell me that he never used the buses because they were expensive…. well, it was cheap, and a blatant lie.

I don’t know how much his cars cost to keep on the road, but I know it was a lot more than the £850 a year you’d have to pay to get a bus pass that would give you free travel across the entire county. I couldn’t afford that, but he could’ve, many times over, and it would have been a lot cheaper than just one of his cars. And hey, I’ve used buses all my life, and yes, sometimes they don’t turn up. It’s really not that big a deal. Mostly I find I just love buses because they get me around the place, so even if one doesn’t turn up from time to time, I forgive them, and still think kindly of them.

So I’ve really never been impressed with the host of reasons people give, some people give, for not driving. Most people don’t give any excuse of course, because they just don’t care what effect their choices have on the world.

Some people say that if you don’t drive then you can’t get to all the places you otherwise could. But what places – remote Scotland? Well yeh, maybe, but otherwise, I have to say, I’ve travelled to a lot of places (including remote Scotland, on bicycle), and I go out every week to the hills for walking, and I always use buses and trains. In fact, cars are rubbish, because you have to return to the same place you started. With buses, you can wander the hills with ease and get the bus back from a totally different place you started out from.

So I don’t feel that my car free life has deprived me of anything. More than that, it’s gifted me a stronger sense of integrity, and a sense of responsibility, self respect, and dignity, something that I don’t see car owners with. They beep horns, they drive fast on motorways, they pollute the air and cut short the lives of the vulnerable, they poison the climate, they kill wildlife, they kill communities, they choke up the cities and the pavements, and they make a noise, a constant never ending noise, that causes stress to everyone. I see nothing dignified or respectful about that, and neither do I see people with integrity. Instead, it’s all just about power and prestige, or their own convenience.

And hey, treading the path of intentions like that leads only to the dark side of the force. I’m just saying, maybe that’s worth taking note of?

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