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12 February 2018

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The eternal pedestrian – why I’m glad I don’t drive

I’m in my early thirties and I have never driven a car. I don’t think I ever will.

Despite getting my provisional driving licence when I was 17 – probably because that’s what all my friends did – I never got round to having any lessons. When I was in college, I didn’t need a car, as it was just round the corner from my house. At university, everything was on my doorstep or a short bus ride away.

I got used to walking to most places and getting a bus/train/coach if I was going further afield.

Since starting work, I have always lived close enough to either walk or get the bus. The longest commute I have had was a 4-mile journey (partly by bus, partly by foot) that took about an hour from door to door.

From time to time, I have considered learning to drive. The main reasons being:

– I don’t like having to put upon family and friends when I need to travel somewhere I can’t get to by public transport
– on holiday, not having a car can be a bit restricting (depending on where you go)
– many jobs that have interested me required a driving licence
– the cost of train tickets in the UK can be extortionate (though when you don’t travel by train very often, over the course of a year driving would probably work out more expensive)

However, I feel that the benefits far outweigh the cons.

Health (physical and mental)

If you drive less, you will walk (or cycle) more. More exercise can only be a good thing – for both your physical and your mental health.

The UK was recently named the most overweight nation in Western Europe, with obesity levels rising faster then in the USA. Walking regularly is a great way to keep fit, especially if you’re like me and hate the gym.

Walking is also great for de-stressing. I love walking to/from work because it gives me headspace to prepare for and wind down from the day. You can do this travelling by bus too – you can read a book, a newspaper or do a crossword.

For most people, driving in rush hour is not going to do anything to help them de-stress. I witness road rage every day. I think I would succumb to it too if I was trapped behind a wheel, needing to get somewhere but stuck in a traffic jam.

Every time I walk to work, my resolve to spend my life not driving strengthens. Except for when it’s chucking it down, perhaps (but that’s what the bus is for).

Getting to where I need to go often takes longer because I have to walk or get the bus, so I need to be more organised than I would if I could just nip somewhere in the car. That said, because of this, I’m not able to cram too much into my day. It forces me to slow down – and that means less stress (most of the time).

Cost

Driving is expensive. First there’s the cost of learning to drive and taking your test. Then there’s the cost of buying a car. Then petrol, insurance, MOTs, servicing, breakdown cover, etc.

I have very little spare cash after my rent, household bills and food costs each month. As I don’t NEED a car on a daily basis, I just couldn’t justify the cost of having one.

While train tickets can be very pricey, I don’t travel by train often enough for the annual cost to match that of driving. We have a Two Together railcard, so we get a third off rail fares as long as my husband and I travel together and, until she’s 5 years old, my daughter travels for free.

If I needed to travel by train more often, the decision would become a more difficult one to make, as cost is a big factor. However, the annual cost of train travel would have to far exceed that of driving for me to get a car.

Environmental impact

This is a no-brainer. Cars are bad for the environment. We all know this. By not driving, I have a much smaller carbon footprint than most.

The impact on the environment caused by our reliance on cars is staggering: from the materials needed to create a car to the disposal of toxic batteries, to the biggest offender of all – air pollution caused by petrol and diesel fumes.

Even if I chose to buy an electric car, eliminating the latter issue, the other issues still exist. However, it would be the way I’d go if I absolutely had to get a car. The good news here is that it is estimated that an electric car will become as cheap to own and run as a petrol car without subsidy by 2025.

Overall I feel my life is better for the fact that I don’t drive. I hope I can get through life without ever getting behind the wheel of a car.

Some people have said to me that having kids will mean needing a car. So far, I’ve managed without one. Maybe that will change when Sophie’s older or if we have another baby. I hope not.

Are you an eternal pedestrian? Have you driven before but now don’t? I’d love to hear how you compare the two.

 

Feature image by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

Tags

car travel, carbon footprint, eco friendly, eco living, environment, environmental impact, green living, health, low impact, mental health, pedestrian, public transport, save money, sustainability, sustainable living, train travel, travel


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