I miss public transport! (by )

When I lived in London, I used to commute on the London Underground and the busses. And in my bag, I always had my current reading book. And I'd sit and read for my journey, half an hour to an hour a day.

When I started working from home, I lost that; but I had to travel into London a few times a week to rotate offsite backups and things like that, so I still got a good hour and a half of reading time a week.

When I moved to Gloucestershire, I still had to go into London once a week, which provided a solid hour and a half of reading time each way plus some time on the Tube, which was excellent!

But that came to an end. When I leave the house, it's rare that I don't drive; and I detest having to manually steer a vehicle around, consuming all that energy and taking up space on the road! Whenever I can I take my bike or use public transport - but times when I'm not transporting passengers or cargo or am in a hurry are so rare. It was a rare treat when I went into town to visit the optician and I worked out it would be just as fast to go on my bike (slower moving than the car - but able to go through the centre of town rather than around, and can be chained up right by the optician rather than having to be parked further out and walking in!

As a society, we're in a vicious cycle: because most people have cars, businesses face little penalty for setting up a few large premises on cheap land outside of city centres, rather than lots of smaller ones nearer to where people live. And because businesses do that, people are pressured to have cars in order to be able to access services.

Even aside from the environmental costs of all those individual cars driving all over the place - and the direct financial costs of a significant fraction of the average person's income being spent on a vehicle, and maintaining it, and fuelling it - we have the all-too-common problem with a lot of things the ignorant call "progress": it leaves behind the people who can't take part. The young, the poor, and the sufficiently elderly can't drive cars, and so are locked out of accessing important services. And because they're the main customers for what local public transport (eg, busses) there is, that public transport is underfunded and poor.

This vicious cycle is somewhat avoided in large city centres, where road layouts laid down before the invention of the car are too hard to change now, and so public transport is the only practical option for most journeys. And it can be undone everywhere else, too, with the right incentives - the fifteen minute city concept, for instance. I'm sad people are opposing it, spreading misinformation to turn others against them - I'm not sure if that just comes from ignorant misunderstanding couple with a knee-jerk fear of change, or deliberate manipulation in order to prop up the fossil fuel industry.

I want a world where I can get to most places I need on my bike, and places further away by bus, tram, and train. Sure, there will be delivery vans, and emergency vehicles, and work vans for tradespeople who need to turn up on-site with a load of equipment; but the roads should be dominated by bikes and mobility scooters and busses (that the mobility scooters can drive onto!). I don't understand why governments want to spend so much on roads (have you ever looked at a motorway junction and thought about what it cost to build?) for people to spend so much to buy and maintain cars to drive on them, and spend so much time driving, and finding and paying for parking in parking lots that take up so much space. Public transport is cheaper and more accessible!

I want this solarpunk transport utopia not just because it's more efficient - less waste is better for the environment, and frees up resources we can use for fun things - but because it's also safer, and frees up our time to read and think and talk while on busses, trams and trains.

(Since writing the above, I had a particularly bad day visiting our eldest at University - delayed by missing a turn because I had ingrained muscle-memory telling me to drive to somewhere else, then delayed by a road closure, then delayed even more by being rear-ended when the car in front stopped suddenly to try and not miss a turning; I stopped in time by the car behind didn't... I'm now even more sick of driving than I was!)

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