It’s a long way from Brussels: The End

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This blog started in April 2010.  There were 10 inches of snow in Brussels.   Me, Tess and Maddie (then 14 and 11) battled to the supermarket with rucksacks.  We were having lots of fun but it was a decent walk for our weekly shopping.

I got to thinking that we should give up the car for a year: to see what we could learn, to have some fun recording our events and to embarrass my two teen daughters. But really, deep down, to see if we could do it.

Well we did do it  – but the things I learnt on the way were unexpected.

This blog has captured the experience.

I did say, a good few months ago, that I would distil what we learnt into 10 Golden Lessons from my Car Free Year (well, 10 years!).  I only got to Golden Lesson 8, which is a bit rubbish. So, in order to close the decade AND finish this blog, here is a summary of Lessons 1-8 (a v brief summary of that blog post)…with Golden Lessons 9 and 10 thrown in!

  1.  Car Club Wanker: People assume you’re super green when you say you have given up the car.  They go into a guilt and justification phase because they have a car.  And some people just think you’re a wanker.
  2. In your face benefits: The financial savings from not having a car are not easy to estimate accurately.  They need to be made obvious to help more people make the change.  People asked me if I saved money (yes!) and how much (well, that depends….)
  3. Life events are opportunities: It is so much easier to get rid of the car if it is linked to a life event.  Mine was moving to a new country and house.  Of  course there are other life events where you redefine your life and re-evaluate a few things (see Lesson 5).  BTW I do not underestimate the fact that my life event involved moving to a high-density city and I could choose a central location close to regular buses, the railway station and City Car Club (now Enterprise Car Club (which has been very important in our car-free lives)).
  4. Car non-ownership is cultural: Buses and bikes were a big part of my young life – I was given a car free culture early.  I think my kids have now got it.  Watch this space.
  5. Shoe Culling Principle: If you stand back and get some context on your mobility life you see some things that need addressing (see Lesson 3).
  6. Personalising Mobility: Non-car-based mobility (ie buses, trains, taxis, tickets, costs, timetables, restrictions, peak/off-peak, Sunday services, bus passes, railcards, multimodal trips etc etc) takes some graft to understand and therefore work out what works for you!  This needs to be a personalised easy experience.  If you do get “Mobility as a Service”, it is amazing the things you tune into.  This is not lost on the car industry.
  7. In-your-face lifestyle benefits: Ok ok Golden Lesson 2, I hear you!  How much you save IS important. BUT that’s not the whole story – believe me, the reduction in stress levels and other non-cost benefits of not owning a car were an eye-opener.
  8. Change the language: “Giving up the car”.  “No car”.  This is all about loss.  To catch on, there needs to be a new language which stresses what you GAIN.  ….. NOW LESSONS 9 and 10:
  9. Lesson 1 is wrong: Madonna was also wrong: time actually goes by so quickly.  It’s 10 years since I started this blog.  In that time people have become so tuned in to climate change.  I am convinced, in conversations I have, that people want to do the right thing.  Instead of calling someone (well, me) a wanker, people are more inclined to investigate how they could give up the car and/or reduce their impact on the planet.  I’m not convinced that giving people a carbon calculator will change travel behaviour (as some research shows).  BUT – there has been a shift, and if there is a real option, sold in the right way, people are willing to change.  Perhaps I am just optimistic, but this really is a unique time. Lesson 9: Views can change, and quite quickly.
  10. Let it snow let it snow let it snow.  10 years on from that snow in Brussels and Maddie recently called me “such a Boomer” for something I had said.  This is not true.  (My views were not typical of Boomers actually Maddie (so there) AND I am actually a very late Baby Boomer – on the cusp in fact.  So there again.)  But it inescapable that a new generation is slowly taking over.  In the last 10 years the emergence of the “snowflakes” is upon us (though I DETEST the term and the negativity it implies). I think this new generation promises so much.  It’s a generation that thinks about the environment and inclusion and equity much more naturally than my own.  Fantastic – let it it snow!  Lesson 10: Generational traits bring shifts, as they mature. (Check out this great article by Sara on the topic – especially the diagram.)

And finally….

I have learnt more about transport by giving up the car, and really experiencing and thinking about my mobility, than I have from 30 years as a transport professional.

This experience has been instrumental in the establishment of Fuse Mobility, a company we have set up to personalise mobility (thanks Lesson 6!).  We’re making shared transport (like car clubs, taxis) and public transport services, and their inherent complexities, much more simple and integrated for the user.  Hopefully, through our products and services we’ll be helping more people to become comfortably car-free.

The next phases of our car free journey? Well, Tess is in London and cycles A LOT and has no desire for a car.  She was glad to get rid of hers.  Maddie is in Glasgow and has chosen not to drive and loves the express bus between Glasgow and Edinburgh.  My own next car free challenge concerns how I easily get to rural Highland Perthshire for extended weekends without a car to work on our “project”/house and manage there without one…..we’ll see!





Tess’ Car. Tess’ Bike.

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Editor's (Dad) comment: sorry Tess - I wanted to add a pic!

Editor’s (Dad) comment: sorry Tess – I wanted to add a pic!

I don’t quite know if I am writing an obituary to my car or a love letter to my bike. My emotions connected to the two have become inflamed by sheer rage. My car has recently cost me £300 in repairs.  Repairs I cannot see: no shiny new bonnet to see where the money went. It is all internal. Then, the next day after getting the money-sponge-with-wheels back, it broke down again. This time it will not start. I have abandoned my car for a while. Along with it I have also abandoned any thoughts of car ownership.

My car has been of great pleasure to me, but also a great nuisance. Its role in my life has ranged from (perceived) necessity to inconsequence – mostly teetering around the inconsequential. A luxury if you will.  For weeks on end it has gathered leaf debris, like dust in an empty house.

Yet it has been known to whip up the east coast between Leeds and Edinburgh with a happy me singing at the driver’s wheel. It has hosted happy times, I can’t lie about that.

The main reason I decided to get my car was due to an influx of new driver hormones making me broody for a life on the roads. I was also doing the trip between Leeds and Edinburgh around twice a month, but wanting to do it more. The train cost £70 for one trip. The car, well that was only £130 a month. A bloody bargain and a logical decision if my travel was increasing. I had also painted a romantic idea of driving to the hills or to the beach at every spare moment. And yes, at times the car gave me that. It gave me an option for freedom when I craved it so badly. I have been on trips with friends and with family in that car. It moved all my plants from an old home to another. It’s a secondary storage system outside the bedroom wardrobe and its mine.

But its financial implications and therefore financial worry marks the end of our rose tinted relationship. This obituary is dedicated to a human-car relationship lying in a pile of road tax and petrol cost ashes. It has drained my money and my Dad’s money (sorry Dad, thank you Dad) for very little gain. I knew how much it would cost, but to “live the cost” is a different thing. To live the cost when you want to spend the money on other things is the ball ache.

I love my life now, and I don’t want to travel to Edinburgh with every break in my calendar. Its role has become a drainage system. And no one needs a financial drainage system.

What has also become apparent, what it also drains, is the pleasures, experiences (and yes, nuisances) of public transport. And as we all know, if you have been following Carfreefamily, is that public transport is in my blood. As I write this I am on a train. I can see the snowy mountains from my seat and directly in front of that window is my gorgeous soul mate of a bike (over dramatic? Never!!) I am sat, travelling at speed, looking at my two favourite things.

Public transport: transport where you can sit and read, watch, listen and talk allows me to absorb more life than any car can. This train I am sat on allows for interaction, reflection and real experience. It’s the embodiment of ‘carpe diem’ if ever I did see it.

It’s real and its social and it makes you feel part of something.

My memories are about public transport. My childhood, my friends, drinking beer and going to the mountains are on transport. Waiting at stations to meet friends. Cheese and wine with my pall Steve. Arran with Helen when we had to run to catch the train. Missing trains. Cycling to Loch Lomond in the sunshine. Passing through Doncaster. Gosh, even getting on at Doncaster when we were so young. All transport.

When I travel I feel my place is valuable and I’m participating and funding something bigger than myself. Something wider and better, more outward looking, inclusive and environmentally friendly than my VW Polo: my tiny metal bubble.

I love getting on the train at the moment, especially with my bike. I read and I think, I write, I nap, I converse, I watch and I am happy. Right now, I can’t see these emotions or see my favorite activities within the car.  A car doesn’t support these activities like a train demands them. So, I am going to get rid of my car.

I am writing this, a diary entry or a letter to myself, or to any one, (potentially to another young Tess Cassidy out there) who is craving the freedom they have been told comes with a car.

It doesn’t.

That fresh pine new interior smell will never beat the dappled light hitting your face as you cycle through a real wood, or as you spot forests, lakes and mountains as you whizz through the landscape.

Choose Life. Choose public transport.

Tess Cassidy

Giving up the car in a time of change – MaaS and the birth of Uber etc

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It’s been an interesting few years in my life since 24 May 2010.  In a personal sense and a transport sense.

In a personal sense: settled in Edinburgh; daughters have magically grown to 18 and 22; one daughter left home and drives – the other has started living a very independent life and doesn’t want to learn to drive; Mum and Dad both died (I still watch this entry sometimes – it was a lovely day with them (and actually had a big impact on my work)); I met a wonderful woman and fell in love. Constant change.

Plus on 24 May 2010 I gave up the car for a year and started this blog about the experience.  30+ entries later and I still don’t own a car.  I have learned such a lot about the great things in giving up the car, the difficult bits and the impossible bits which face many people.

It’s been an interesting few years in the transport world since May 2010 as well.

In July 2010 Uber was born (7 months later they had raised loads of cash for global expansion. July 2012 they come to London)).

In August 2011 Gett was launched in London.

Lyft was born in August 2012.

Nov 2013-April 2014 Ubigo undertook a 100 people trial of Mobility as a Service – subscription to transport not ownership of transport.  2015 MaaS alliance is formed and there’s been plenty written about the concept in the profession since (one of the best is the July 2016 TSC paper).

What a few years.

The Golden Lessons I have learnt from giving up the car seem aligned to lots of the professional writing and thoughts on MaaS.  I wanted mobility as a service when I started my carfreeness but was actually consuming mobility as a disservice very often.

I really wanted one bill for everything (see Golden Lesson 2 (July 2012)).  Now there are trials out there that would give me that (if they included all the transport spending that me and my family do – ALL of it).

But I also wanted to know very accurately how much I was saving from not having a car: I was asked the question so often (and still am): was it worth it?

To get to the answer I (and MaaS) need two things.  The first is a clear cost estimate of me and my family’s car-free costs against that of the car – but in a very personalised way: for example you can’t just compare the mileage I did in the year I had a car (if I had that info) with the mobility spend of the year without a car: what trips were degenerated at no real cost to my family?  How can we factor in the change of my family’s transport needs? It was a time of constant change in my family and constant change in our travel needs and behaviour.

Secondly, I need some quantification of the unexpected benefits of not having the car.  These are not the “soft” things – they are the real “hard” benefits I experienced.  Probably the biggest learning from my car free life (described in the blog) was the breadth of the unexpected benefits.

To catch on, and work as a solution, MaaS needs to answer me loud and clear:  Was my mobility better or worse from not having a car? Was my life really improved and made easier and better?

This is where the magic of selling MaaS comes.

It is also where the business model can be made – through the monetisation of the benefits.

I promised 10 Golden Lessons to end this blog – I only got up to 8 which is a bit rubbish.  I’ll do the next two – and maybe a few more – but from a professional point of view.

Professionally I was prompted to give up the car and start this blog by some great work done by Erel Avineri and Owen Waygood on a EC project I was co-ordinating.  Their work within the project included work on loss aversion and stimuli for behavioural change.  Plus I enjoy participant observation.

I should also say that another big change taking place since May 2010 was a change of job: a big personal and professional change.  In January 2014 I joined ESP Group  to form an R&D Division: Viaqqio was formed.   In giving up the car I (myself) was desperate for integrated personalised journey planning, booking and payment – I wanted something to make my life easy.  At Viaqqio, with a really talented team, we are designing and delivering mobility to do just this – with young people, older people and people living with dementia.




Motivation – why bother?

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Never had a Guest Post before – but Lynsey has bitten the bullet and the second car has gone.  So here’s the story of the transition of Lynsey and Gordon (and her their three boys Munro, Jock, Hector) to having one car….plus a pic of one of the (sore) unexpected consequences!

Motivation – why bother?

The main catalyst for trialling our “One Car family” project  lies with me being caught for speeding -  in excess of  50% of the limit.  As it was January and the time where all household insurances and contracts are renegotiated I thought now is the time to live with one car since my car insurance would inevitably go up.  Further to this I had recently changed to a three day working week and the office is supplied with good transport links which I used to cycle to when I was a good bit fitter and healthier.  Now is the time to get fitter and healthier and use the car less.

Other contributing factors which although not paramount were my personal concern with climate change.  As a beekeeper I have noticed a significant change in the way my bees behave in the unsettled climate. Taking a car out of the equation would surely help –wouldn’t it?

Furthermore, my husband already cycles to and from work and needs a car for work perhaps once a fortnight.  If the day he needs the car overlaps with my work then I have many options such as public transport, car share with my sister-in-law or cycle. No problem there!

So the question becomes “Why not? – to me there seemed very few barriers that good communication and organisation could not overcome. My husband is very pragmatic and suggested we trial the one car family rather than just selling it (which was my initial suggestion). Read on to find out how the trial went.

What has been easy/hard?

Our second car was SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification) on 1 Feb 2015 and within a week I had to cycle to work as my husband needed the car.  Not a problem!  I opted for my road bike since it would have less resistance and be quicker to cycle the 7 miles to work.  Back in the day I could complete the journey in 28min but it took me 45mins which is hard to stomach:  but you have to start somewhere and I was relishing the challenge.  I arrived at work unable to stand as I suffer for MS and have issues with temperature control – when I overheat I find it difficult to stand, walk and talk.  Note to self – wear fewer clothes next time.

The second week I had to cycle for one of the working days and wore fewer clothes.  It was raining and fared much better despite having an infected ankle which occurred on the first cycle (see photo).  I managed to get a water blister as a result of my cycle shoes rubbing .  The blister burst  and then got infected due to my immune system being very weak.  The wound took three months to heal and required me to car share with my sister in law on the days my husband needed the car.  No big deal as it allowed me to catch up with her and what her kids were up to. I view this as a positive.IMG_2214

While the second car was off the road it was vandalised (broken windscreen).  This made me more determined to sell the second car as it was now costing money for us to keep it off the road.  At this juncture my husband was still not in agreement to selling it. Perseverance!

Shortly after the windscreen incident, our main car had to go to the garage for a week.  My husband reminds me “now we are a no car family!”  How can that be an issue? We live in town!  As a result we took the train for a weekend trip and the kids loved it.  We were able to chat on the journey and did not have to stop for toilet stops.  Very positive result.

Has the experience been similar to what was expected for me, kids and Gordon?

Our weekends tend to be jam packed with activities for the kids.  We have found ourselves walking and cycling more as a family and also using the bus and train.  The kids love the bus especially sitting on the top deck.  As the bus and train continue to be a novelty the kids are pro the one car approach.  Let’s hope that lasts.

I think it has been easier than expected. When the car is not there the temptation to use it is removed. Communication and planning has improved between us and that has strong feel to it. There have times when it has been frustrating but they have been few and less as the time has gone on. It has, perhaps, stopped us doing something we would have normally done or altered our plans. Sometimes we might not achieve as much in terms of box ticking during the course of our busy weekends. During the week the impact has been limited. Only on one occasion did I have to hire a car and it is easy to do this at low cost and short notice these days.

What have been the unexpected benefits?

I communicate better with my husband as we now need to plan ahead and we compromise and we are both getting fitter although I find I eat more when I cycle.  I also know more about what is happening in my sister in laws life – not sure she likes that!

Our kids have a greater understanding of the environment and are happy to walk further

I have cycled to work pretty much every day and although at first this was hard work in bad weatherI now don’t htnk anything of it.

Tips to others giving up?

  • Be organised!
  • Get your bike serviced – many offices organise a free service session with bike shops
  • Check out the bus and train routes from /to work – for example, if I cycle in I do not have the energy to cycle home and so take the train part of the way back
  • Get a family railcard – it pays for itself quickly
  • Communicate with your partner – it is really good for the relationship as you are forced to talk to each other, plan ahead and compromise
  • Speak to other people with the same family make up – we have three young kids and our children get invited to lots of parties and so we are rigorous in determining if we can get them to the party easily or not before we accept the invite but our mantra in the house is “where there is a will there is a way”

Who looks after your mobility now you have started using other modes?

After a four month study we have agreed to sell the second car and put the money we get from the sale towards solar panels.  Our main car is ageing fast and so we plan to replace it with a hybrid (Gordon has done a spreadsheet assessing the costs of solar panels and switch to new hybrid against reduction in car running costs! Ed.)

Reflections on becoming a young driver: Es ist nicht alles Gold was glanzt

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Tess, my lovely 20 year old daughter, is currently in Tokyo.  The first picture she has sent me is of a crowded train.  The first message she has sent me tells me that she has been on the busiest train station in the world.  The second picture she has sent me is of said busiest station in the world. Transportation pics and facts – she knows how to make me happy.

One could argue that Tess and my lovely 16 year old Maddie are a bit more tuned in to transporty issues than many – being part of Carfreefamily and having a Dad that has constantly gone on about public transport, making them look at ticket vending machines and tickets and assess buses in foreign cities, and design smartcards (enjoy the personalised smartcard designs from 2003 developed by Tess, Maddie, Chloe and Lottie during a “Smart Media Design Workshop” we held on a wet day in South Uist in 2003).

Lottie's smartcard: with a remarkably lifelike picture.  The other side had a ice pic of a ....CD

Lottie’s smartcard: with a remarkably lifelike picture. The other side had a ice pic of a ….CD

Tess' smartcard: themed around drama with a pic of a king

Tess’ smartcard: themed around drama with a pic of a king

Maddie's smartcard: sporting a smiley bat

Maddie’s smartcard: sporting a smiley bat

Chloe's smartcard: note useful helpline and spider

Chloe’s smartcard: note useful helpline and spider

Of course, like many parents, I over-egg my own influence on them, though us not having a car has meant that they need to think a bit more about travel options as a lift from me is not possible (see earlier posts). For example Maddie has a demon knowledge of Lothian Bus routes not because of  me, but because she uses them a lot.

So what happens about learning to drive?  During time out from University Tess decided she wanted to drive and driving lessons duly became the present of choice from family and friends.  Getting to a decent level, and having passed her theory test, she ran out of money and time and started University in Leeds as a non-driver.  Coming back from University for Easter she had arranged lessons and a test and aimed just to give it a go.  On 13 April she passed her test.  Wow – well done.

More about motivations in learning to drive some other time – Tess’ mainly governed by having some time on her hands and thinking it would be a useful life skill to have. [She is bucking the trend - driving is declining amongst younger people - see  "Decline in Young drivers" research in the links  - from Beth's great site].

I was interested in what the experience has been like for Tess (eldest daughter in carfreefamily)- how has she found becoming a driver?  Yes she knows how to make me happy – here are her reflections – thanks Tess x


Passing your driving test feels like a mammoth step towards adulthood: this exclusive level of independence which allows you to do what the hell you want and whenever the hell you want to do it.

In the first weeks since I passed my test it was just about the need and desire to drive. Walking to college, to the gym, I was constantly assessing people driving and imagining what I would be doing if I was sat in one of those cars. Lights turn to solid amber, take the car down to second gear!  It was really annoying actually.

On top of this I was obsessing over what car I want – Googling for small cars in which I can just toodle up to Edinburgh from Leeds if I just feel like a nice tea instead of rice and pesto. It’s so stupid -I don’t really need a car but driving is new and fun, that is all it boiled down to. I also was thinking a car seems like the answer to my current life of feeling trapped in Leeds, a City I don’t really want to be in and don’t really know well – a way to get out. However, I think it’s just like when I buy a dress because I feel fat: I don’t need the dress, Its just my mind that needs a wee fix. A consumerist thing..

As time has progressed and now that I have some access to a lovely little car (Thank you Julie and Jenny) my opinion has changed a lot. I don’t want to own a car now. I don’t like the responsibility (haha) of having to make sure it’s safe and well parked.  And I really didn’t like the parking ticket I just got! I don’t like how friends are so keen to go on a drive, like it’s the best thing to do in a day.  It is still somewhat nerve-racking driving which just adds stress to my days.

Overall though, I would say the biggest thing that has put me off wanting a car is how awful I felt when it was just me in there driving along amongst all the other cars with just one person in them. It feels awful, consuming that much energy and resources just for one person, doing routes which could have easily been taken by bus, probably safer and more relaxing too. It really is scary how many of us choose to drive -especially for those when there’s easy alternatives.  For a person who has never really been exposed to daily car journeys (car free family problem!) it was definitely a shock.

Being able to drive and sometimes having access to a car has definitely helped me make my life more flexible. It allowed me to go to my friend’s at 10pm and leave at whenever I wanted (1am) because I don’t have to rely on getting a bus and finding the change.  It allowed me to see my boyfriend but get home in time for tea. And having this license means I can hopefully go drive round Iceland and go on some country walks with my friends.

Looking back at the last months the car certainly hasn’t enabled me to do completely unique things or given me a life line - it has increased the pace of my daily life and my chances of dying.

As my German teacher taught us on one of our first vocab tests: Es ist nicht alles Gold was glanzt (how come I remember that from 1976?) – All that glistens isn’t gold.  Having access to a new mobility option – fantastic: ownership, responsibility, costs (which Tess has been shielded from in borrowing Jenny’s car) – not quite so good.  (There’s a different way to increase mobility channels and services: increase the gain and decrease the pain – but that’s the day job….)

Oh and DEATH….. yes certainly she has an increased chance of dying with traffic accidents being the largest cause of death for 16-24 year olds.  But how fantastic is this as a part of the solution?




Golden Lesson 8: Loss and Gain – Why Abba got it wrong

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Benny wanted to be faithful to the reality of behavioural economics, but Bjorn, always the snazzy one, insisted on the lyric actually rhyming.

“OK” said, Benny.  ”You win, and it’s me that’s standing small! But Bjorn – we’re definitely playing it in F sharp major!”.  And the rest is history and that lyric was agreed: ”The winner takes it all.  The loser’s standing small.”

Benny’s more accurate lyric, written on that crumpled piece of paper in the bin, read:

The winner takes it all, the loser feels at least twice as bad as the winner.

Because that’s just how it is.  We as humans assign much more weight (about twice) to losing, say £100, than we would to gaining £100.  Behavioural economics calls it loss aversion.

And out of all my lessons from Car Free Family-dom it is perhaps the most scary, important and useful- everyone focuses on the LOSS of the car, and not the gains of not having a car – many though they are (direct and indirect – see Golden Lesson 7).  And, as Benny knows, when the focus is loss it will be very difficult to give up.  Benny was a car driver.

I and others always speak about “giving up the car”.  This language will always stress the loss = double the gain.  It makes change difficult to contemplate.

To help people make (an informed) transition there’s a need to highlight the gain and present the loss and gain in different language and in different ways.  It’s called loss framing.  Its the key to helping us make a change – to counter the cognitive bias Benny was so aware of. Of course this links directly to Golden lesson 1.

It’s exciting the think of how to do this (building on some of the other Lessons) – something we’re working on in my day job.

Poker players need to manage the cognitive bias of loss aversion to stay healthy!  A nice insight into loss aversion:


** For a great review of loss framing from two academics who have great insight into this topic check the Behavioural Economics link – from an EC Project I co-ordinated 2009-2012.  Have a look at D1.1 in the Deliverables.  Written by two good friends and colleagues Prof Erel Avineri at Afeka College, Tel Aviv and Prof Owen Waygood at University of Laval in Quebec.




Golden Lesson 7: Tales of the Unexpected and Jam Tarts

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As I try to round off these Ten Golden Rules/Lessons learnt I reflect on what I felt like when we started on our car free life.  I’m not sure what we really expected but there were a few worries and plenty of optimism.

I honestly was not sure if we would last out our trial year without a car, or if we would continue being car free after that year (its now coming up 5 years).

There have certainly been some unexpected consequences of car freeness:  things I didn’t ever imagine would happen.

The biggies:

CAREFREE CAR FREE: How happy I have felt not having to “care” for a car.  The hassle of maintenance gone.  And the unexpected bills – tyres etc.  But the biggest thing is the hassle – taking it to the garage etc etc.   Car stuff.  Not for me anymore.

BYE BYE MONKEY: Not emptying the boot or cleaning the car out when it was full of toys and mess and other little things like that used to get to me. I never washed my car but this didn’t bother me at all.  But I also never really cleaned the car out. (A stag beetle once cockroach crawled into Maddie’s shoe when it was left in the boot.  I felt bad after I had forced it onto her foot ignoring her heartfelt complaints that the shoe felt funny on her toes.) Cleaning out the car and bringing stuff into the house.  It was just ANOTHER job I HADN’T done.  A monkey on my shoulder.  So its bye bye to that particular monkey.

DEMON DRINK: I have drunk more.  I have not been a designated driver.  I have taken  buses and taxis.  An alternative interpretation is that I have relaxed over a beer more often. I’ll go with that version.

WHEN IS A TAXI NOT A TAXI?: The amount of taxis I have taken has surprised me.  There’s been a lot of trip generation there.  I guess I just see taxis as justifiable now – I don’t spend money on a car so taxis aren’t a problem when they fit my need.  I have reconceptualised taxis: they’ve gone from being a bit of a luxury to being a mode of transport which fits into my life.

STATE OF INDEPENDENCE: The independence of Tess and Maddie – especially when they were younger teens.  There is no car available for me to give a lift so they walk or bus.  And they don’t think that strange.  I have not worried about them getting out and about and to their various activities  when I am out of town on work tips. It doesn’t need me to make arrangements for lifts etc and worry if they have worked.   Ok they have asked for taxis every now and then (as they have become older  - if its v late and they want to get home, or if they are v late to get somewhere) but generally they sort out their own mobility. Sweet. Oh and they love their bus passes.

THANKS DAD: Even better – IF I offer to get a City Car Club car and give a lift they are SO grateful.  It doesn’t take much for me to do this – the Car Club car is round the corner – but it is a bit more of an effort than just taking your own car off the driveway.  They know this so it’s a big thank you from them.  Of course my daughters are lovely so they always say thank you, but  I don’t feel like a taxi service.  And they are thankful. You get my point.


So this is the reality of the unexpected – and there are a few more besides.  Some of these are what the transport people like to call in-direct benefits – all the extra things that are quite often discounted by transport modellers who try to explain behaviour and evaluate decisions.  But these things are very real. And they have made a difference to me.

Eccles Cakes 008

Some (transport modellers!) see these as the fluff and extra bits left over – not the main things explaining my car free choice.  But like my Mum who always took the off-cuts of pastry and made them into jam tarts, when you rub all these extra bits together its amazing how important these “extras” can be.  Not fluff – real stuff.  Important in making and continuing a car free decision.

Golden Lesson 6: I have become a car salesman

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This was certainly in my list of unexpected impacts of car freedomness: I have become a more discerning consumer of, and thus promoter of, different kinds of cars.

OK – I have not been car-use free, but car-ownership free.  But whenever I have decided to use a shared car I have thought about the various features I want from a car.  Passenger space, economy, size of boot, proximity to my home, size of load I am carrying (eg taking very large loads to recycling etc).

These are pretty usual things to trade-off but I can also add to the list – technology such as parking sensors/cameras, sat nav, Bluetooth.  (The kids will often ask me if the car we are getting has Bluetooth for long journeys so we can all listen to iPods. Yesterday I took my lovely daughter Tess to start University in Leeds.  Her iPod was pretty good – here’s a snippet:

Laura Stevenson singing to us between Edinburgh and Leeds

Sometimes, being “irrational” I have also become attached to one type of car – I remember my Fiat 500 phase well.

It’s great that I have a choice around all these parameters – if you own a car you haven’t.  You have made the one time guess (at purchase) about the type of car which best suits your overall needs.  How rubbish.

I now tell friends about the relative merits of the Toyota Hybrid Auris Estate, Yaris Hybrid, Nissan Leaf, Toyota Aygo, Peugeot Expert Van, Fiat 500.

I think this is interesting (well to me!) at two levels:

1. That I am doing this at all.  I have never been into cars at all and know little about them.  I have now found myself giving advice to friends about car purchases (after trying to get them to eschew ownership).  I have found people actually asking me about hybrid cars as they are new to hybrid and have never driven one.

2. That I am now discerning per trip based on features.  I’ll make a choice based on a range of gadgets, requirements that best suit my needs.

So what?

Imagine a world where many people have given up their car ownership and are consuming mobility as a service – sharing lots of cars.   They will be trading off between models and features like…..…wildrabbits!  It will reinforce the importance of features and technologies.

It will be a community of people talking about and consuming these features in real time – not one at a time every time they buy a car.  We may get a car industry supporting an important car share market and learning lots for their (hopefully smaller level) car sales market.

Lots of opportunities there for all stakholders.

Golden Lesson 5: Changing the context (the Shoe Culling Principle)

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I live in a small flat.  I have two teenage daughters who have grown quite a lot since we started this blog.  They have acquired many pairs of shoes in that time.  I have often raised a call to arms to do a shoe cull.  Usually this has resulted in maybe 2 pairs of shoes exiting the flat.  It has never worked – we are overun.

A few weeks ago I tried a new method to get Family Cassidy to focus on the “Shoe Problem”.

I thought Tess and Maddie needed to see the real issue at hand – the real nature of the problem.  And to allow them to make decisions and tradeoffs “Ah yes, I have 5 pairs of the same type of shoe and thus maybe the 5th pair, which is quite manky now and hasn’t been worn for 3 years, should be culled”. (OK I admit I have a middle aged male’s view on shoe ownership.)

So I was up early one morning and prepared the living room to expose the full nature of the problem.

It was a bit of a surprise when they awoke.  Initially it led to lots of warm reminiscing about shoes and moments they had shared (the shoes in question and Tess/Maddie).  This was an unintended cosequence, though maybe part of the “letting go” process.  However, this presentation of the shoes in the living room also made a cull much easier to achieve and the shoe population was decimated (well, let’s say reduced quite a bit).



What did this little experiment (well, bit of fun) do? It made it easy to cull by: (i) allowing decisions to be made easily (seeing that maybe there was only one studdded high heel and thus it was useless), showing that a certain pair could be let go as there were at least two similar pairs which would full that shoe purpose - allowing comparison/contrast/prioritisation; (ii) putting all the shoes in one place (no ferretting about to find shoes in various corners of the flat/cupboards – they were all in one place) and in taking up the living room – no way to escape:  easy to focus – make the decision – act.  (Also it was quite fun.)

Overall I think it changed the context of the decision.

I think this is important in bringing about change.



When I gave up the car for the initial year I was forcibly changing the context of my mobility decision making.  It made me look to other ways of meeting my mobility needs- it made me look at other ways of living my life, choosing new ways of travelling, comparing and contrasting prices/availabilities etc.  It was a bit of a pain doing this  - it wasn’t exactly seamless (see Golden Lesson 2) – but I had to do this.

For other people voluntarily considering any move to giving up the car, the change needs to be made easier: people need to have confidence that it is doable, and there is a safety net if things go wrong.  As with the shoe cull: Tess and Maddie needed to be sure that they have alternative pairs of shoes if other pairs were to be killed.  They needed an easy way to make an informed decision.  In a car free context, being able to  understand: Will i save money?  Can I still pick up the kids when needed?  How will I do my shopping? How will I feel?  How will I get to work? Can I easily get a car club or hire car? What if it all goes wrong?  What are the benefits to me and my family? A decision making “tool”  needs to be available – in one place or via one service.  To be personalised.  To be accurate. To be reassuring. (Importantly technology can REALLY help here and can ALLOW new organisational approaches to deliver such tools.)

And even if the car isn’t being given up – it’s not an option for many people – some tool would be useful.  Cassidy Family have learnt that there are so many benefits from giving up the car/walking more/using public transport more etc, as this blog has talked about.  However, only by easily and seamlessly and personally answering the questions above can the context of decision making be changed and new ways of mobility be seen to be “worth it” “for me”.  Ideally such tools would facilitate action as well – “yes I am reassured and I have guarantees that  it’s for me – I’ll buy in now and I will start benefiting now”.  A change in the context within which to make personal mobility decisions and a view to a new future context for personal mobility/lifestyles.

Below is my favourite quote – in fact the only one I know!  It’s applicable anywhere there’s a problem.  For Golden Lesson 5 aswell.  Individuals (and cities and rural areas) have transport problems.  There is a need to think differently to solve them.  There is a need to change the context within which thinking and decisions are taken.  It’s The Shoe Culling Principle – change the context for decision making – change the terms of reference – reframe the problem – find a new solution – make action easy.

Oh, and make it fun.

We Cannot Solve Our Problems with The Same Thinking we Used When We Created Them ~ Inspirational Quote


Golden Lesson 4 (and thinking about my lovely Mum and bus stops): Love is Experience shared

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It has been nearly a year since my lovely Mum died suddenly aged 81.  I am carrying her bus pass around in my wallet.  She loved her fee travel bus pass.  mum pass

Before  her bus pass she loved her National Tavel Tokens: a bag of “travel money” which could be spent on various forms of transport.  She used to keep quite a few to spend against her train travel down from York to Doncaster to see us.  national travel tokens

She also loved her taxi account we sorted for her when she was struggling to use the bus for all her needs once the car had gone.

She was very connected to her community and life, and these helped her keep connected

Though she was mobile and connected throughout her life. As a very small child I remember going into town with her and my sister on the bus.  The Number 1 from Tang Hall Shops (next to the phone box we used to walk to every other Sunday to call my Aunty Eileen).  I remember her playing games with us at the bus stop so we wouldn’t get too bored and agitated waiting 10-15 minutes.  And I remember us all sometimes running for the bus, out of breath and laughing.

And as a small child I went to so many places on a small seat attached to the cross bar of her bike.  It was a hard black shiny plastic seat.  Up to Muncaster to see my Aunt Lorna.

She used to cycle to Rowntrees to work an evening shift packing After Eight chocolates.  She said when the whistle blew at the end of the shift there were hundreds of bikes all coming away from Rowntrees rushing home.  She’d bring home a few broken After Eights for us as a treat, and her shoes would be caked in them.  It must have been 1973?  She had learnt to drive at aged 40 – about that time – but my Dad had the car.

after eitgh

I have often thought of that saddle on the bike.  We had the same type for our kids, and Tess and maddie remember moments on that saddle so vividly.

I wonder if it made cycling a ready form of transport for me – the norm?   I have always cycled quite a bit – not as a fanatic cyclist – I mean it would just be odd not to use a bike.  I have often used it as a main form of transport to work.  Even in London – cycling from Penge to Marylebone via Hyde park Corner in all weather.  I loved it.

Buses and bikes.  Just the norm as a kid.  Lots of shared experiences.

There’s a great quote in Saturday Night Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe: Love is experience shared. 

I wonder if the mobility experiences we have as kids pass on in some ways – making a certain travel way of life the norm?  I know many people who hate buses and bikes – have they had this passed on to them?  Never used them as kids and the occasional negative parental comment about “bloody bikes” or never dreaming to catch a bus.  Maybe my kids are having car-free-ness passed on?  We have experienced laughs and jokes in the car when we had one – but they are less vivid than the run to the bus, or the shared bike ride, or even the bus ride with other people around on the top deck and the walk to the shops.  And even our chats about being car free – they instil a culture.

By having these non-car behaviours it just seems normal to take the bus, or walk extra or get out the bike – not just jump in the car.  And the car is more hassled – so often the driver (Mum or Dad) is hassled or distracted (by driving!). (This is reinforced by research which shows that for people who commute by bike the happiest part of their day is their commute.  Yet for poeple who drive the worst part of their day is…their commute.)

My colleague Beth (see the BethLikes link on the right) is doing her master dissertation on this topic: why are younger people driving less?

I know I remember vivdily my travel as a child.  The black saddle.  The bus stop games.

I know i loved, and still love, After Eights.

I know I loved my Mum very dearly.

And I am pretty sure that if your kids are opened up to new ways of doing things they get some form of innoculation which keeps that thing living in their lives.

A mobiliy culture innoculation.

An experience shared……

And here’s a lovely video that made me think of our bus stop games with my lovely amazing Mum.




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