I thought it was about time I reviewed my year without a car, now it has been about 15 months!
Of course, I had not factored Covid-19 into the equation….
When I started my car-less journey, it was more about the cost of buying a new car and the implications of only using it to get to work two days a week. With my car I had driven to work in around 45 minutes. Taking the train instead took a lot longer. However, I have been much better at embracing the slower pace of life since having major surgery.
Then along came the C word – Covid-19. Suddenly the UK is in national lockdown due to a highly infectious virus from abroad. The roads are deserted and no one is commuting to work apart from essential keyworkers – like me.
My shift pattern changed to 12 hour shifts which made train journeys impossible. Train companies were running a skeleton timetable due to staff sickness and if you live in the countryside – like I do – there is generally no train or bus service between 11pm and 6am.
So a taxi was provided by my workplace for me to get to work and home. Whilst not my ideal eco- friendly solution, it was at least giving someone else some paid work. Thankfully, everything returned to normal-ish in the summer, so my car-free journey re-started.
I have always preferred the slower pace of life on public transport, being able to read my book or just watch the countryside go past and count the number of different animals I can spot in the fields. It’s quite grounding. From that perspective, going without a car was something of a joy.
However, family life is more tricky. Food shopping and day trips are a lot easier with a car.
How do you do a weekly food shop and get it home without a car? I had been getting online deliveries to start with, home delivery has been a godsend in this respect. But once Covid hit, there were no available slots and you had to queue at the supermarket, my anxiety got the better of me. My only option was using my ‘granny trolley’, walking and going as infrequently as possible. Thankfully supermarkets responded quickly by increasing available slots and I was able to go back to my online food shopping.
Fancy going to Bowood adventure playground for the day? Take the car and you are there in half an hour on about £2 of fuel. Without a car? According to Google Maps it would take between one and two hours and involve train, bus then walking a mile. With two kids? Not gonna happen. Or 30 mins in a taxi for between £30-£40 – equally, no.
So getting out with the kids has been a lot more local. Which has actually been quite nice. Whilst all the exciting places have closed due to lockdown, we can still go to the local park and nature reserve which we are lucky enough to live near.
Am I being unfair to my kids? They live half the time with their father and stepmum, who have two cars. They seem to have accepted that at my house we have no car and that getting anywhere involves walking. Once they become teenagers their patience may wane!
I’m not saying it’s been easy. There have been times where it’s been hammering down with rain and I really wished I had my car to keep me warm and dry and get me somewhere quickly. There have been other times when I have smugly watched my neighbour scrape the ice off his car as I stroll to the train station to my ready warmed train.
There have also been occasions when I really wanted to visit a friend or my parents but couldn’t get there. That’s when it gets hard. It’s not easy to get anywhere that isn’t in the middle of a town or city without a car. I think London definitely has the advantage there with its extensive and regular tube and bus system. If I was reliant on the local bus to take me to town, there is one an hour and it would cost £4 to go half a mile. You really have to embrace the slower pace of life in the countryside!
I need to embrace taking a taxi. This is not something I find easy as it is always soooooo expensive. I have even resorted to getting a lift from my parents on occasion, which in retrospect is kind of embarrassing. My 70-something parents giving their 40-something daughter a lift home. They probably thought that was over 20 years ago when I learnt to drive….
So, in summary, it’s been very hard not having a car. Am I considering buying one? Not yet. I don’t miss the stress of driving and the costs involved. I do miss the convenience of getting directly to where I want to go in a short amount of time. If we are ever going to live in a car-free society, public transport need major improvements.