When you think about it, do you re­ally need to own your own car?

The Kerryman (South Kerry Edition) - - OPINION - Fr Michael Com­mane

THE in­sur­ance re­newal is due on my car on De­cem­ber 1. It’s 18 years old with 99,000 miles on the clock. It has never let me down. It was two years old when I bought it.

The ques­tion is whether or not to in­sure the car and keep driv­ing. I’m on the brink of try­ing to live life with­out the use of my own per­sonal car. As with so many as­pects of my life I am the supreme pro­cras­ti­na­tor.

Fi­nan­cially, it’s a waste of money for me to own a car. In the last 12 months I drove the car 800 kilo­me­tres, which means it’s a non­sense to have it parked out­side my door. In­sur­ance is ap­prox­i­mately €350, the same again for tax. Be­fore I ever turn the ig­ni­tion key I am down €700.

The de­ci­sion what to do has set me think­ing about our at­tach­ment to cars and the world­wide mo­tor in­dus­try. At pre­sent I live within six kilo­me­tres of Dublin city cen­tre, have an ad­e­quate to good bus ser­vice. I’m three min­utes to the near­est bus stop with a bus ser­vice that op­er­ates ev­ery 10 min­utes dur­ing peak times and the Luas stop is a 15-minute walk away. I walk to work, which takes 10 min­utes and go­ing most other places I cy­cle. Ok, I’ll be hon­est and say, I also have a mo­tor­bike.

As I write these words, talk­ing to my­self, it’s as clear as day that I do not need a car. What about the rainy day, what about an emer­gency? Has the world­wide mo­tor in­dus­try se­duced us all to be­lieve that we must have at least one car out­side our door?

With the abysmal pub­lic trans­port sys­tem in ru­ral Ire­land and poor plan­ning laws that have houses scat­tered to the four winds, a car is an es­sen­tial for most peo­ple. Ev­ery day we are learn­ing of the ad­verse ef­fects that petrol and diesel fumes have on the en­vi­ron­ment and on our health. And what about the ag­gres­sion that cars bring out in driv­ers? Cars can be lethal ma­chines.

Think about it, the pur­pose of a car is sim­ply to get us from A to B. There is some­thing wildly dis­pro­por­tion­ate about the at­ten­tion we give to a car and the ac­tual pur­pose it serves.

We have given a sta­tus to the car that it does not de­serve. Sleek ex­pen­sive brands make most of us turn our heads in ad­mi­ra­tion. Why? Is the money they cost in any­way com­men­su­rate to the pur­pose they serve? Or is it that they are just fash­ion ac­ces­sories?

When Pope Fran­cis was in Dublin it made head­lines that he was driven about in an or­di­nary small fam­ily car. It made the news be­cause he was not trav­el­ling in a sleek black Mercedes, BMW or Audi.

It’s al­ways in­ter­est­ing watch- ing on tele­vi­sion ‘im­por­tant peo­ple’ ar­riv­ing and de­part­ing from meet­ings, whether in Brus­sels, Stras­bourg, Ber­lin or Dublin, they are in top of the range cars. I can’t help think­ing that we have been fooled by the mo­tor in­dus­try. The av­er­age an­nual cost of run­ning a car in Ire­land is €10,670.

Some years ago a fam­ily in New York, on an ex­per­i­men­tal ba­sis, forewent their car for a year. They saved ap­prox­i­mately €4,000.

I can al­ways call a taxi or hire a car. I’d still have change out of my €700 and I’d be help­ing make Ire­land a cleaner and health­ier place.

The more I think about it the more I am in­clined to say ‘bye bye car’.

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