Do you re­ally need to own your own car?

Wicklow People (West 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 an 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 watch­ing 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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