Golden Lesson 1: People will assume……

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I was driving over the Forth Road Bridge on a clear blue-sky day, looking at the sea, beholding the wonder of the Forth Rail Bridge.

I was happy.

It was the second time I had used a City Car Club car, and today I was driving to see a friend about 60 miles away.

Clear roads.  Blue sky.  Music on.

The car I was driving was unremarkable – a Ford Fiesta I think – with the City Car Club neat little logo on the side.

Smiling , I noticed a car in my rear view mirror.  I was doing about 75 mph (ok, a tad over the speed limit), but this car was slowly but surely making ground on me.

As it came closer I could see the people in the car: a car full of four young men of about 24years.

What was interesting was their fixation with my car.  They rubbernecked their way past me, slowly but surely; all the time looking the car over.

My positive warm mood turned into an almost visible glow as I realised they must be having a little group discussion about City Car Club: “motoring by the minute”.  This is probably quite natural, I thought: younger people are tight for cash – they are probably discussing how they should join the Club, the potential cost savings, and how much money they could save.

How fantastic

As they edged past me the two young men who were sat in the back of the car turned around and simultaneously made the all too distinctive “you’re a wanker” gesture.

(Good wrist action, mind.).

And then, with perfect symmetry, the guy in the passenger seat and the driver both stuck out their arms and did a synchronised, wrist-tastic “you’re a wanker” sign.


When I have told people I don’t have a car it has been met with a mix of reactions.  One person told me that they think I am a hero as I am saving the world.  When I met Gardenlady and told her my deadly secret she asked immediately “But you can drive, can’t you?”.

Most people assume I am an environmental  warrior, but they don’t know I am not.  Not really.  OK I recycle as much as is reasonably easy.  Thanks to the Council that’s quite a lot.

But green issues and the environment are mot prime motivators for me – I guess I am averagely green….I do care about the planet and sustainability, but I am not overly green.   I have trialed living without a car and it works – it saves me money and saves me hassle (see Golden Lesson 2).


The next most common reaction I have had from people when my car-freedom-ness has come up has been a cocktail of guilt & defensive justification as to why THEY can’t give up their car.

Really, I am not that bothered if someone chooses the car  -I have done so for many years.  And many people’s current lifestyles, where they live and specific mobility needs would make giving up the car very difficult indeed. But there is a feeling that I must be judging them.

Also the car is certainly a signifier of status.  And the use of public transport is seen by some as some form of failure or lack of status (remember the Thatcher quote?).

I suppose public transport cannot be cool, can it?  There are some tips to looking cool in the bus out there though:

But I have found something different:

giving up the car ASSUMED TO BE  green

giving up car ASSUMED TO BE hippy

It is very rarely attributed to saving money and lack of hassle and other positive attributes (no time spent servicing, repairing, taxing – and being able to have a drink, getting me and the kids to walk more…)

A project we have just completed for the European Commission has shown very clearly that you don’t “promote green” to promote environmental behaviour – you promote the co-benefits: saving money, time, health benefits etc.

Golden Lesson 1: If you give up the car people will assume you are something that you probably are not.  If people want to assume I am a green God they can.

But it certainly makes it difficult for the next person to give up the car.

Most will think they do not have this God-like love of the planet.

It will hinder change.




One Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Emily
    Aug 06, 2012 @ 17:12:17

    As much as I’d like to pat us on the back for being uber awesome environmentalists, my family did not prioritize the planet when we decided to sell our cars. But when people realize our family of five living in Canadian suburbs went carfree, they over react. We had 2 cars when it made sense to have 2 cars. We now don’t have a car because it doesn’t make sense to have a car. I have been tempted to tell the more incredulous people that we use kayaks and snowmobiles to do our grocery shopping.