(quelquefois, je voudrais d’être Français)
Although I understand the practical advantages of being able to hop in the kind of horseless carriage that would have terrified people as a form of witchcraft two centuries ago, and go wherever the Hell I want directly and with relatively little expense, there are also a load of problems with cars that I feel are more relevant to my own life than these advantages: they’re an unnecessary expense, dissuade from walking, and are really stressful.
Cars aren’t ridiculously expensive – 78% of women and 83% of men lived in houses with a car in 2010, so most people can afford them – but they are an expense nonetheless. I’m getting ready for University now, meaning I’m preparing myself for obscene amounts of penny-pinching; in the inevitable event that I’ll run out of money, I’ve looked into which is more nutritional to eat: wallpaper or carpets (it’s wallpaper – this pest control website told me so).
Right now, I don’t want to have anything I don’t need that is an expense to keep; I don’t mean ‘don’t need’ in a Paganist, I’m-selling-all-my-video-games-to-restart-my-life sort of way, but in the sense that I don’t want to add anything new to my life that will cost money: I’m alive as it is, so I see no reason to add new things to it.
Cars also dissuade people from walking: my parents for instance, are active, hard-working professionals, but we own a car, and so do very little walking. I don’t mean in the sense that you can’t own a car and go jogging, but I’ve found that you’ll become healthier by replacing a part of your daily commute with a walk, as opposed to strenuous, specialised activity once a week.
Honestly, cars are just too convenient, and humans are just too lazy, for this not to be the case; having a dedicated workout session at the gym is a lot easier to skip, saying ‘I’ll do it next week’, than having to walk a mile home because you left your car in your driveway.
This idea of convenience is another reason I dislike cars: they are a perfect example of the human desire to divert time and resources to make our lives cushier, and not improve our healthcare, political systems or social divisions; I don’t know how many people donate to charity each year (I tried to do the maths, but it was too difficult), but I’m sure it’s not an average of 81% of men and women, as it is with car ownership.
There’s also an economic reason for being charitable over driving: the average American spends $5,000 on their car a year (today £3048.22). Cancer Research UK, the country’s biggest charity to fight cancer, just asks for £2 a month, totalling £24 a year, to ‘beat cancer’. This idea of money is also key; by donating to a charity, not only do we help people, but it’s a lot cheaper: for the cost to run a car for a year, you could give Cancer Research ten times what they asked for, and still have enough for a PS4. I know the figures don’t quite match because British and American currency and car usage differ, but I think the point still stands.
I said earlier that I don’t want a car fundamentally because it’s a new addition to my life I could do without; similarly, I probably won’t be donating much to charity in the next few years, as I won’t have much money to donate to ASDA to give me food. However, more broadly, neither cars or cancer are likely to impact your life specifically (cutting fifteen minutes off your commute a day is not worth it), so if I’m gonna give x money to a cause that won’t impact me directly, I might as well go with the cheaper one. It’s just common sense.
There’s also a lot of stress involved in car ownership: by its very nature, the initial driving test forces us to try to avoid any mistakes, an inherently impractical system as humans make mistakes as part of our nature; and road rage, in its nuts and bolts, is a bunch of affluent people shouting at each other over a cloud of Polar Bear-choking fumes, because one person has made another person’s commute four seconds longer by not letting them pass, making absolutely no difference to their punctuality at their meaningless, life-wasting job, that just furthers the divide between the haves and have-nots, and is as beneficial and relevant to the development of our society as seeing how far you can stand away from the toilet and successfully piss in it while wearing a tie.
And for pointing this out, I’m considered unadventurous, for not wanting my own car, or afraid, for not wanting to participate in this potential bloodbath of scratched wing-mirrors, slit tyres and trivial lawsuits?
The fundamental problem is that humans like having stuff, especially stuff that is either convenient or portable, and the reclining seats and four-wheel-drives of todays cars fulfil both of these criteria. However, security and safety must necessarily be scarified therefore – a car is never as safe as a building drilled into the ground – and so people get upset and scared when they’re cars are damaged or broken into; it’s a box made of cut-up metal and glass sheets, what the Hell kind of security did you expect?
Cynical tangents aside, I seriously don’t want a car. It’s a monetary drain in a culture where no-one, and specifically me, has any money, and those of us that do could easily spend much less of it on much nobler aims, it’s unhealthy, and it’s a stressful palaver that’s like an entrance exam to adulthood, except that instead of going to a place of learning at the end of it, you get shoved onto a strip of human idiocy with a bunch of impatient, reckless fools, like a rat playing Rollerball.
Oh, and they also kill cyclists. #bloodydrivers.
– Wallpaper and Carpet! (also pest control, boo)
– American Spending on Cars (possibly an unreliable source)
– Rollerball! (perhaps a little less relevant than the rest of these links)
– The Guardian on the deaths of five cyclists (just to finish on a negative)