After five years without a car, a friend left hers with me for two weeks while she went snowboarding in Japan. It was an opportunity to visit some places that are nearly impossible to reach in the city of Perth without a vehicle. It was also a chance to reflect on my relationship with different modes of transport.
At the end of the fortnight I concluded that, in a car:
“…we are a different person, seeing our life and our world from a different vantage point.”
(Full piece on my other website in On Having a Car.)
The intention to explore how my own life changes with access to a car led me to understand that it isn’t just my own individual-ness that is affected. My interactions with my neighbours and my neighbourhood are all equally altered.
My personal choice to drive to a cheaper supermarket a little further away says that the financial savings are more important to me than supporting small, local businesses. It says that the ease of carrying twelve cans of beans is worth the footprint of owning a car. And it also suggests that I will accept that my city is not designed for people who don’t drive.
Rather than professing that these are not valid reasons for driving – money, time and ease are all enablers of wellness – I offer an invitation to notice how you see your world from the vantage of point of a car. Not just when you’re in your car, but as you decide to do something that would include the car.
Go a step further and notice how you experience yourself in your city simply by being the owner of a car.
In Perth we are starting to get excited about laneway bars and single speed bikes. There is an ambitious Transport Plan for 2031. Councils talk about liveable neighbourhoods and European-style cafés are a pleasant stop for pre-work lattés.
If you are a planner, involved in public transport or enabling communities, if you promote local produce or anything that is about creating a more dynamic city, if you or your colleagues got to the meeting by car, recognize that you will have a different perception of what makes a vibrant neighbourhood than the east-London artist who has never had a drivers’ licence.
We put the cafés in, we build bike paths and we have some farmers’ markets, but the experience is not the same as it would be in Lille, Amsterdam or Sheffield.
Perth is unique. There is space, we have cars, we have roads and, for the moment, we have a thriving economy. Know that this affects how we create our city.
Our version of a sustainable way to live is going to be different to Europe, the US or South America. If we recognize who we are and how we are we can collectively find our own way of living well, in all senses of the word.