I’m a great fan of Shakespeare, and wanted to get some reference to the bard in one of my blogs. So apologies for the title! 

I trained as a management accountant and got familiar with the concepts of fixed and variable costs. When I found myself leaving my car at home more frequently and preferring to use my bike, I became conscious of the increasing fixed costs per mile involved. My annual (fixed) costs of insurance, tax, car test and maintenance were now spread over fewer miles driven, thus pushing up the cost per unit driven. As accountants are considered to know the price of everything but the value of nothing, I wanted to debunk this myth!

Some years ago, as my concern about climate change grew, I decided to give up my car altogether and buy an electric bike. Friends and family have asked if I made the right decision. I have no regrets, despite some misgivings. 

We need to address the greatest issue facing humanity and the carbon footprint of the private car is very high and increasing annually. That will involve some reduction in our standard of living, but is more than made up by an increased quality of life. I’m not a great fan of the alternative of electric cars which strive to maintain our current lifestyles by a different and presumably more sustainable route. However, they have a lot of embedded carbon in their production and assume that the electricity is all coming from renewable energy sources, which is not the case. They still add to the car culture which we need to move away from and will continue traffic congestion and deaths and injuries on our roads.

 I found that the car was taking longer to get from A to B and parking at my destination became more problematic. Using buses was not satisfactory for me as they also got caught up in traffic and also elongated my journey times. It was obvious that the best way to get around Dublin in a timely and healthy manner was on a humble bicycle. It was also becoming more clearly environmentally sustainable. I hope to write on the joys of cycling in a later blog.

An Taisce has advocated for a change in transport policy in Ireland for many years. The government’s Smarter Travel policy from 2009 was to see the total share of car commuting drop from 65% to 45%. This has clearly not happened. Here is commentary from 2015 and a report to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2020. 

The main drawback for me in not having a car now is that I can’t make specific journeys out of Dublin that are not served by trains. However, my friends and family oblige me in taking me in their cars for which I’m grateful. There are many journeys you can take on Irish trains, and often bringing your bike which adds to the enjoyment of the trip. Also, longish trips in lashing rain are no fun and I’m happy to be bailed out in a car – like last Christmas Day with my family! I’ve had to agree that it’s good to be driven home after hospital stays.

Readers will rightfully say that it’s easy for me to forgo a car in Dublin, but what about rural dwellers? We need better public transport outside our cities and more people living in towns and villages than in one-off houses in the countryside. 

There will of course be a need for people with disabilities and older folk to continue to use a private car. Even here, non-car use is perfectly possible. Fewer cars will make our roads safer for active travel (walking and cycling) and buses to travel more freely. It will enable children to play and foster community engagement. It will make for a better public realm for all to enjoy.

Eric Conroy

Read Eric's other blogs in this series: Sinking in to the Deep Sinking and Phoenix Park State of Mind.

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