Don’t write off the car, write it into the future
An open letter to Sadiq Khan
Dear Sadiq Khan,
In response to an article, you tweeted from ITV on post lockdown London, we wanted to express our views with the hope of helping you shape the mobility options in our capital. London in lockdown has shown us the obvious, but nonetheless has been a real eyeopener. Fewer cars on the road has meant a reduction in traffic which in turn is improving air quality, something that has been drastically needed for a long time. But how do we keep this momentum going when restrictions are eased and millions of people will be travelling in London every day?
We welcome your vision to encourage walking and cycling. London is easier to navigate than people think, often getting the underground or taxi when the trip could have been achieved by leg power. With social distancing in play, people will need their space so widening of walkways needs immediate action. Public transport will also be much less accessible with trains and tubes predicting that they can only cope with around 15% of pre-lockdown capacity for everyone to be safe.
During the lockdown, at Hiyacar, we ran an NHS initiative because NHS workers were scared to get public transport through fears of infecting themselves and others. They turned to us because a car offered them security and peace of mind. Getting to and from work became ‘one less thing to worry about’. The importance of the car in society became very clear but we too want to reduce cars on the roads. Reducing the volume of cars, but using cars we have better.
Radical change to London’s transport needs is a must but we want to make sure that the car is not being written off but instead being written into the future of London. How can cars play their part in a sustainable way? By making peer to peer car sharing more accessible for people who need a car and attractive benefits for car owners. True car sharing, not car clubs who will add cars to the streets but cars that are already owned by the community and have their own parking. For example, by working together we can create a universal car-sharing scheme where only cars that are available to be shared and meet high environmental standards could access the city and park free of charge. This would result in London creating its own car-sharing community where there is not an excess of vehicles taking up valuable space. Writing car-sharing into the fabric of London is the only way that it will be truly embraced and will become the new normal. In the 4 years that Hiyacar has been trading, we have already seen the switch in perception about cars. They used to be highly protected possessions whereas now, they are utility, a piece of metal that gets people to where they want to go.
By embracing car sharing the benefits will include reduced car ownership (so fewer cars parked idly for 96% of their life), fewer cars in London, lower emissions (especially with a focus on EV and other low emission vehicles) and the flexibility and safety of having a car available if and when people need it. On top of that, the car owners are making additional income and drivers and businesses have a no-contract car option so they only pay for what they need rather than trying to sweat an asset.
So whilst we agree and welcome the big improvements to increase walking and cycling and we back reducing cars in London, let’s not write cars out of the whole city but use them smarter as the right cars really do serve a purpose, just ask our NHS workers who booked out all of our eligible cars.