On The Road: Nobody drives for fun, so how are we managing to cut back our car use?
Sunday 31 August 2008
It is official. We are all mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. Or, at least, a little put out and not going to take the Astra to Bluewater 'just to have a scratch around and maybe get a new bath mat'.
The economic downturn appears to have put the kibosh on our love affair with the motor car. According to the motorway monitoring organisation, Trafficmaster, congestion has fallen across the UK by an average of 12 per cent compared with 2007.
'Ah, the Olympics effect', I thought to myself. But no, the figures are to June 2008, and I doubt it was series three of Prison Break that did it either.
No, with petrol topping £1.20 a litre, diesel even more (not feeling so smug now, Mr Audi Q7 TDi, are you?), and increasing taxes, motorists are simply staying at home.
But something puzzles me. How exactly are people cutting back. Surely 12 per cent of us weren't previously just driving for the fun of it?
Most cars are about as fun to drive as a herd of llamas, and with congestion (at least as it used to be), the only time you could take a quick blast just for the heck of it was at 2am, and the speed cameras would still get you.
I'd love to know which are the journeys we all suddenly feel we can live without. Visits to elderly relatives must be high on the list, along with reps snubbing difficult customers and anyone who has been looking for an excuse not to go to Braintree. Going to see Mamma Mia! at the out-of-town multiplex has surely been scratched from many a male partner's to-do list too, I suspect (for the love of God, what have we ever done to Pierce Brosnan?). I do hope they're not all car sharing: imagine commuting intimately with someone you then have to spend nine more hours at work with.
There may be another reason people are cutting back on journeys. I borrowed a Chevrolet Epica recently.
It was the most dispiriting car I have ever been in. I got in, looked around, felt inexplicably sad, and got back out again. I simply could not bear to drive the thing. And, what do you know, Chevrolet sales have increased by over 25 per cent in the first half of the year. Coincidence?
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