Why Cars are Making Less Sense, and Why We Should Still Love Them

By James Wong

Cars are making a lot less sense to a lot more people.

This is true of nearly every society which faces urbanisation, which will inevitably lead to denser living.

In the United States, the massive urban sprawls of major cities are causing huge traffic jams that head into the city from a large urban catchment area (think Los Angeles). Beijing in China is still desperately trying to find answers to the eventuality that its whole middle class would be buying and driving cars. It can no longer rely on its current infrastructure which was built when everyone was still on bicycles. Even at this stage, which is only the beginning of the rise of the middle class, Beijing’s roads are already facing huge gridlocks. In Europe, stricter emissions regulations mean that cars are increasingly being powered by alternative energies – diesel, hybrid or electric.  Not so good news for keen drivers.

Then there is the price of petrol and diesel. When was the last time we heard proper good news on this front? How about the costs of rising insurance premiums?

It seems that in every conceivable way, things are working against the viability of the car.

To be fair, it is a selfish form of transport. It is private transport – something only you and your family and friends can use, because you own it. It is also built to carry more people than yourself (usually), which means when you’re driving alone, your car takes the space of two, five, or more people on the road.

As it is selfish and takes up space, in an urban situation, cars are definitely going to be frowned upon. Now, what happens when an ever-greater proportion of people in the world move to the cities? The answer is that the cost of owning and driving a car is set to rise to the point that it becomes a luxury, not a necessity.

The scary thing is most people are OK with this. People who don’t love cars can quite comfortably do without them, as long as public transport is good enough.

I can testify to that. London is one of the largest urban conurbations in the world and is also home to the infamous Congestion Charge. Every weekday, from 7am to 6pm, drivers coming into Central London have to pay GBP10 each day just to use the roads in the city. That’s USD16.30 every single day.

It’s no wonder nearly everybody I know in London takes the train or bus. Even if it means that the train frequently disrupts due to strikes, breakdowns and signal failures. But the astounding thing is, nobody is really bothered that the car is slowly and quietly being chased away from the life of people.

Sure, it’s a good measure, even necessary, to ensure urbanites live a comfortable life.

But I just want to urge you, fellow car lovers, to continue buying and driving your cars if you can. Even when you’re restricted from driving it, it doesn’t mean you can’t own one. There’s certainly some joy in owning a car.

I can see, quite acutely, that people are striking the notion of car ownership from their minds, an increasing number indefinitely. It is a worrying trend that might mean private ownership of cars might even diminish in the distant future.

Let’s work to preserve the car despite it making less and less sense. Some things just don’t need to make sense.

Author: James Wong

The only writer to be based in Asia, James provides a refreshingly different perspective to the automotive industry with his unique experience of living in the Far East. He is a prolific journalist who has written for several leading automotive publications in Singapore, including Torque Singapore and REV Magazine Singapore. He believes in the thrill of driving and champions for an appreciation of driving pleasure above the horsepower race. In September 2010, James relocated to the United Kingdom, London, bringing him to a whole new environment from which to start a new chapter in automotive journalism.

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