Could you cope without a car?

4 Dec

Lourie talking to Kenneth

The biggest difference between motorists and beggars is that motorists are in cars and beggars are not. Well, duh, you say. Obviously.

But consider this: the issue is much bigger than one of functionality.

Having a car means you have choices, and that’s important. Yes, there are costs associated with it, but you enjoy a level of freedom and autonomy that isn’t possible without one.

So beggars are in a hugely unequal relationship with motorists – not just because they’re poor compared to people in cars, but because people in cars can drive away and they can’t. Is there anything more disempowering than waiting on the side of the road for somebody to give you a lift?

Even good public transport isn’t the same, not unless you live in a city like London or Paris or New York where it’s so painful to drive and there are so many alternatives that you’d rather use them. When I lived in Sydney, I loved the freedom of not having a car at first – and then grew to hate it. It took forever to get anywhere, transporting my shopping was a pain, and I had to live entirely according to someone else’s timetable.

Me in Timbavati. A car means freedom.

Me in Timbavati. A car means freedom.

After I hand back the Evoque to Land Rover on Thursday after the two years of the Pulse of the City campaign  is up, I will be without a car – and I’m dreading it. Already I’m having to mail people to tell them I need lifts to client meetings. I will be in a situation where I have to ask for favours and rely on others, and I will hate it.

Presumably, you’re wondering why I haven’t made a plan to sort out a car post-Evoque. I haven’t decided what to buy instead because, as a freelancer with lots of projects currently up in the air – ones that might make money or might not – I honestly don’t know what my income is going to be like next year. So the idea of committing myself to something that might turn out to be a mistake does not appeal at all.

If I could just date a lot of cars to find the right one, I would.

In a world in which so many are moving away from the idea of owning a car, where traffic is such a massive problem, and collaborative consumption is the new way to go, this might seem rather backward. Why don’t I go all green and get a bicycle? Perhaps even a scooter? (Short answer: this is Joburg and no, I’m not insane.)  Could you cope without a car? I’m not sure I will.

No more spontaneous trips up mountains.

No more spontaneous trips up mountains.

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