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?




Your Generation

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have been thinking a lot about ageing this week.  This is not only because occasionally nowadays when I look in the mirror in a morning someone from the crypt looks back at me.

In fact I have been reading, along with my colleague Beth (to see what she likes click on link to the right), some fantastic articles on ageing and lifestyle and mobility.  Fascinating reading.  Loads of lovely scary statistics:By 2040 more than 22% of the UK population will be over 65 and 7% over 80.  (By 2044 I’ll hopefully be one of those 80+ year olds and will be regularly scaring myself in the mirror (this does not appear in the stats).)By 2030 one quarter of all registered drivers will be over 65 – a 50% increase .

Now obviously there’s a load of issues around this for older people, policy makers in mobility, health, urban planning etc (more toilets please!!! – many older (and younger) people experience incontinence – in a recent Help the Aged Poll 52% of respondents agreed that a lack of toilets in their local area stopped them going out as often as they would like).

And if you can’t get out, due to lack of access to a car, buses, places to go (as your local shops are now in a distant shopping centre), because you’re lacking confidence etc etc, you become increasingly isolated: there’s been an increase of over 50% in older people reporting that they feel often or always lonely.

Many of the older car driver predictions note how important it will be to ensure driving is made easier and safer for older people, but also that those without access to a car or who give it up (see blogg for my Mum and Dad’s experience) will be increasingly marginalized (especially for rural and suburban older people).

A recent US study showed that problems with eyesight and having no reason to drive (the latter makes you think) are the two largest reasons for giving up the car.  Was a bit of a dodgy sample though – not many low income people.

But two interesting things:

1:. Future elderly people (me…and YOU): will we be as married to the car as current older people?  My own background and expectations for mobility are very different to Chris’ (though I hope to be walking to the pub every day at 85 – it’s a Cassidy thing).  Will we be more married to it? Or will the future elderly be so much more environmentally aware? And economically aware?   Will petrol be so expensive that only the very rich (older people) can afford a car?

2: Good news!!!!! A great article from University of Arizona (Sandra Rosenbloom) looked at how adult children in the UK and US view the cessation of driving by their parents.  Finding: nightmare – they dread it – especially if their parents live in rural or suburban areas and the adult child lives close enough to have to help! It’s seen as a huge burden.

So what is the good news? Well – it’s for my lovely daughters Tess and Maddie: If I continue to live in a city, and extend my car-free year to a lifetime, YOU WILL HAVE NO NEED TO WORRY ABOUT ME GIVING UP MY CAR!  I have done it already!  My gift to you.  Call it your inheritance – I’ll spend the money…

Car Rhyddha Deulu i mewn Cymru ‘n ieuanc boblogi a mobility

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Now as the title suggests we have had a brilliant weekend in Wales having lots of fun with, officially, the most fun, friendly, hospitable family in Wales.  I saw Gwyn smile at least twice, and the sun shone.

Amongst the Welshy things we have been up to: eating leeks, watching rugby (GO Rocks!), drinking at rugby club, eating Welsh Cakes, big wheel at Cardiff Bay, going to Barry Island (including Nessa’s slots (?), Marco’s cafe), meeting Dai, Elwyn, Rhys, Huw and Maegan, watching fight between disaffected youths when I was running round the park, feeding chickens, drinking Stella.  All very Welsh.

Car free family have also learnt the Welsh language, which we found remarkably easy:  Araf plant. Tidy.  What’s occurring.  Crackin.  Lush. Not sure what all the fuss is about.

And as you will see on the video, we explored contrasting mobility issues for urban and rural families – especially teens…..always a laugh!

But the conversation did highlight the ONE thing that is giving me worries about not having a car: getting Tess home from late night events.  Reluctant to get a taxi and buses late at night, she cycles or walks.  So what is the latest that I should allow her to get home alone like this?

But wait a minute…..

STOP PRESS: Tess caught a taxi home tonight at 11pm!  Black cab – call when in it – give the number to father over mobile – safe and sound.  Her friends are all starting to now.  Would be nice to have an account for this – with some added benefits – eg a text to me when she is in the cab, a saved contact number to call me in case there are any problems (would be good for the cab company too as they would have someone to take responsibility in case there are any problems……mmmm)

Good weekend!

Nos Da.


In Depth Analysis – Cassidy Senior and His Car

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So it’s not just this generation of Cassidys giving up the car.  Chris and Aud (aka Mum and Dad) gave their car up a year ago.  Chris was 83 and was less confident driving, and the car needed a lot of work after failing its MOT. Chris decided enough is enough.

Chris told my sister (Suzi) and I about his decision when we visited.  Audrey asked us to go to the “other room” where Chris was waiting to tell us “some news”.

Suzi and I looked at each other: after 50 years of marriage had they decided tom split up?

Chris is not a man of speeches.  This was an event.  Chris looked at us and started:

“Listen, I have something to tell you.  Now I don’t want you worrying, or talking us out of it, but me and your Mum have been talking and we’ve made a decision….”

My Mum later told me that she had cried when they decided to give up the car.  They had always had a car, struggling to keep it running at times as we were never flush with cash.

Audrey said that she felt that this was the end of their independence, their flexibility.

Since then they have got used to walking to the local shops for most of needs, with a weekly walk to the town centre (about 2 miles away).  Audrey says they are lucky that they have a nice local community, and the good buses.  Audrey catches the bus into town quite often too – always has.  Chris has never caught a bus and will never.  He has no knee cap on this right knee (awful accident aged four – in hospital til he was 13, crutches, callipers, nearly an amputation) and has always said that he would be unstable on a bus.  Can’t sit down.  This is probably true to an extent – but old habits die hard.

He walks to the pub everyday for his 1.5 pints.  Not bad at 84.  They say they don’t really miss the car, and Suzi takes them to the supermarket once in a while for  a big shop (Suzi lives an hour away).  But one thing is for sure, they feel better off – the car was a drain on resources.

What a car it was – Suzuki Swift – 21 years old and 50,000 miles!!!  One (very) careful owner