Letting Go Of The Car

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From top: traffic at O’Connell Bridge, Dublin 1; Dan Boyle

The most recent statistics released by the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) show a 10.5% year on year decrease in the registrations of new passenger cars. This has got some who claim to be able to read economic tea leaves worried.

For some perverse reason the increase in car sales has been taken as an indicator of improving economic wellbeing.

The theory goes that people purchasing more of these vehicles is a sign that greater amounts of disposable income are swirling about, and that consumers are more prepared to buy the type of good they otherwise would avoid purchasing during a recession.

I’ve always treated this particular statistic with a huge amount of disdain.

Even the acronym SIMI is loaded with ironic deceit. Ireland does not have a motor industry. We do not make cars.

What we have is a motor retail sector. Each car purchased here impacts negatively on the country’s balance of payments. The obsession with this statistic tell us very little about our economic health.

This preoccupation with the motor car has seeped into too much of our official thinking and approach to strategic planning.

In the past number of decades any attempt to more fairly distribute land use, such as by pedestrianising streets, introducing bus lanes and cycle lanes, or providing planning for new apartment units without parking, has evoked knee jerk reactions that the car owner, and by extension the car itself, is being inconvenienced by these changes.

These are end days for the fossil fuel propelled vehicle. It can be argued that the development of the motor car has been the most significant, and most liberating, means of social change in the 20th century. Now we need to move on.

A more honest cost benefit will reveal a price has been paid for this greatly enhanced freedom to travel. That price has come in the form of ever deteriorating air quality, and millions of deaths and horrific injuries from motor vehicle accidents.

The use of cars has had, and continues to have, an enormous value. However, we have tended to over celebrate that value.

In elevating car travel as our primary, and often our sole means of travel, we have produced a lop sided transport infrastructure that has relegated those who choose to walk, cycle and/or use public transport, to the status of second class citizens.

Share the space should be our motto in developing future infrastructure. That means that a collective realisation needs to be accepted that door to door transport, by a single means of transport, will soon become impossible.

With that the very concept of car usage will change. Already growing numbers of people are becoming less interested with the idea of owning cars. Some are renting more, leasing more, sometimes for periods of a little more than an hour.

We should be incentivising and investing in transport alternatives. We need to make those alternatives more convenient, more reliable and less expensive. We must make the cultural shift away from the belief that insists that the car is the epicentre of our need to be.

What it is, is the thing that is holding us back. It’s time to let go.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

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93 thoughts on “Letting Go Of The Car

  1. andydufresne2010

    And yet, when I looked around my car on my way to work this morning, there were no junkies or loud or stinking people nearby, I wasn’t crushed against a load of other people who were coughing and snotting all over me and I wasn’t wet from waiting or walking anywhere.

    Why don’t I cycle then? Just ask a cyclist in Dublin what that’s like.

    1. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

      God, I hate buses. Bleurgh. The smell of arse off the seats. It actually makes me feel ill.

      1. Brother Barnabas

        do you think irish people have especially whiffy bumholes? i suspect we might (excrept yours – bet it’s so, so sweet)

      1. andydufresne2010

        I agree Boj. It does sound selfish but that’s the reality. You’re dealing with hundreds of thousands of ‘ME’s. I don’t think the public transport system is going to get any better.

        1. edalicious

          But traffic isn’t going to get any better either so you’re just going to spend longer and longer sat in your car every morning.

          1. BobbyJ

            But there are “no junkies or loud or stinking people” in the car so andy is cool with it. Probably thinks we should facilitate him to drive everywhere too.

          2. andydufresne2010

            I am cool with it Bobby. And you don’t need to facilitate me. I pay my own road tax thanks. We’re being punished by making it less and less easy to drive places and I’m alright with that. I’ll take it on the chin. But let’s not go pretending that the alternatives are great because they’re not.

          3. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

            What are you blathering on about?
            Oh, hang on. You’re talking to Andydufresne. Do carry on.

            That’s to BobbyJ.

    2. LeopoldGloom

      Cycling is fine. Very safe in fact. Quicker than a bus or car between 7-10 am for most journeys. I’m far, far healthier for it too. Each of my bikes has paid for itself too in the savings made on bus fares, several times over if I were to include petrol (still learning the driving, controlling a tonne of metal is far scarier).

      That attitude stinks but is not uncommon. Needs to be changed, and on a huge scale. More people need to be willing to cycle or walk, hell even ride sharing/car pooling would be a step in the right direction.

      We have generally got quite small distances to cover in Ireland, particularly in our urban areas. There are few journeys that can’t be done by more efficient means than a private, polluting vehicle.

      1. andydufresne2010

        I have many cyclist friends who have a different experience than you every day Leopold. In fact there isn’t a day that goes by that they don’t nearly get splatted by some idiot driver (and there are many idiot drivers). It’s not that my attitude is uncommon, it’s that it’s very common. People will prefer to drive rather than use less comfortable and less convenient public transport. And I’m glad all your distances are generally quite small. Mine aren’t.

        1. LeopoldGloom

          You must have some unlucky friends, or maybe just nervous friends. It’s all about being assertive, signaling in time, making eye contact. There are thousands, and thousands of people cycling every day. It’s on the increase. It’s not as common an attitude as you think.

          To make it safer, more people need to be doing it though. It needs to be normalised.

          I know people cycling 30 km each way easily every day, some more. Now that’s not for everyone, but even large distances once or twice a week are not unfathamable for more.

          My grandparents did it, on worse bikes and bad roads.

          These are not valid excuses: The weather, it’s dangerous, it’s slow etc. Any distance up to 10 km each way is very easy in short time. 10-20 not for every day, but a few times a week. 20+ the occasional day, or the serious weekend warrior who really wants to cycle.

          There’s nothing comfortable about sitting cramped, low down, with car seats that are crap for posture and having to keep both feet poised on a pedal constantly.

          1. Brother Barnabas

            “It’s all about being assertive, signaling in time, making eye contact.”

            that’s true. but i’d love to be able to just cycle my bike to where i’m going without having to manically make eye contact with every driver around me, trying to make a split-second assessment as to whether this person is paying attention, gives a sheet, knows what they’re doing, has seen me, has regard for others, has manners….

            that’s what makes cycling difficult; it has nothing to do with the weather, roads, distances etc

          2. LeopoldGloom

            Eh, you don’t though. It’s basic observation that takes a split second on your part when on the bike.

            You should always be doing it and not thinking it’s a chore. Just as Drivers should always be doing it.

            Problem is, people are selfish and all too often have eyes only on the space ahead.

          3. andydufresne2010

            My car is an old car and it’s still more comfortable than cycling. Just because your experience of cycling isn’t of it being dangerous doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous. I’m pretty sure the chap (and it’s usually a chap) who gleefully overtakes 3 cyclists – who he perceives as going too slowly – out of the cycle lane into traffic and back in again without so much as an arm indication thinks he’s being assertive and thinks cycling is great. I’ve tried all forms of transport and driving is still the nicest. Stuck in traffic is just more time for listening to podcasts. I’m not going to pretend that other forms of transport are nicer because they’re just not as far as I’m concerned.

          4. Nigel

            I feel bad when I see people who feel they need to justify their use of a car. You shouldn’t. It’s fine. The infrastructure of this country favours cars overwhelmingly. I think that’s to our detriment but it’s a fact of lfe. Lots of people have no alternative and lots of people do it because it’s the most convenient option. That’s fine. However I think the country should no longer favour cars so disproportionately. That’s it. Until it changes, and even after it changes, keep using you car if it suits you. But objectively, overall less cars are better, so long as the alternatives are decently served.

          5. Rob_G

            Andy’s comments serve to indicate that Dan has a bit too much of a rose-tinted view on people giving up the car: no matter how many alternatives you put in place, there will always be a large % of people who, given the option, will take the car.
            So, as well as carrots, we need sticks – increase on fuel duty, and a congestion charge between the canals would be a good start.

          6. LeopoldGloom

            I’m sorry, I’m not having this bs —

            “Just because your experience of cycling isn’t of it being dangerous doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous.”

            Just because you think cycling is dangerous doesn’t make it so. Cycling in itself is not dangerous so long as you have common sense. You should be worrying as much when you’re in the car otherwise, as that idiot who cuts you up on a bike, is the same idiot who’ll t-bone your car.

          7. andydufresne2010

            “Cycling in itself is not dangerous so long as you have common sense.”

            It’s some of the other road users that don’t have common sense. That and the crap state of the roads are what make it dangerous. But you keep insisting that cycling is as you see it. I disagree. That’s all.

            Any by the way I drive comparatively little.

            Rob_G, what are these carrots you speak of? Seems like it’s all stick to me.

          8. Nigel

            I do think cycling on almost any road has gotten way more dangerous, but you know what, that’s an utter disgrace and people have every right to complain about it and demand better, and frankly it’s mystifying why every single other person would not be at least tacitly supportive of the principle that roads should be safer for all users.

      2. mildred st. meadowlark

        +1

        My previous commute was 90mins or more, each way. Now I work no more than 10 min drive from home and cycling is definitely the way to go.

  2. qwerty123

    There are less new cars sold due to increased UK imports. There are more cars on the road now than ever.

    Air quality has gotten worse due to the incentive the FF green government gave to buyers of diesel cars as the thinking was they had lower carbon emissions. We know that is not true and diesel cars are dirtier than petrol.

    When they did this they destroyed the second hand car market with motor tax price differences on the same cars. This has led to a dysfunctional market ever since getting better as these cars are now too old and getting scrapped.

    I agree public transport needs to be invested in bit this article is atrocious stuff, did you spend more than 5 minutes researching this Dan?

    1. Dan Boyle

      About as much time as you did with your diesel meme. I wasn’t saying there were less cars, only that less new registrations is not something to get worried about.

      1. qwerty123

        Your article stated there was a shift in attitude to cars – “Already growing numbers of people are becoming less interested with the idea of owning cars.”

        There are more cars on the road, you took new car sales as as sign of declining car ownership. Which is wrong.

        The only comfort I get reading your article Dan is the word ‘Former’ on the last line.

        1. Dan Boyle

          And there is a shift in attitude. Your attitude towards what you think of me doesn’t change that.

          1. LeopoldGloom

            There isn’t really a shift. Car is still king, and by a long, long way. It’s why they only ever want to build motorways. It’s why car park lobbies are allowed to continually block city centre progress.

            Not so long ago you’d have 1 or maybe 2 cars per household. It’s not uncommon now for there to be 4 or 5. Mam, Dad and all the kids coming and going as they please. Often to the same places, but doing it separately because you know “independence”

          2. ReproBertie (SCU)

            “It’s why they only ever want to build motorways”
            Didn’t they just announce the Metro again?

    2. Cian

      This.
      According to CSO there were
      2016 141,931 new + 70,138 second-hand = 212,069
      2017 127,045 new + 92,508 second-hand = 219,553
      an increase of 3.5%.
      (the increases in the previous years were 26% and 16%)

      Oh, and for context 2007 (peak) had
      180,754 new + 58,719 second-hand = 239,473 total

      1. qwerty123

        Cian, this is a Dan Boyle article, go away with your readily available facts! Hyperbole and sweeping statements are the order of the day.

        1. Cian

          Most of what Dan is saying in the article is true.

          We are over reliant on personal cars. It isn’t sustainable. And the sooner we invest in other types of transport the better (for all of us).

          1. qwerty123

            See above for the “smelly seat” comments. People prefer cars if they had a choice. The problem is they don’t have a viable choice unless on Dart, Luas, bus lane. I agree on the public transport, needs serious investment. Especially in commuter counties.

          2. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

            Actually, I prefer cycling to using the car for my commute. As well as hating smelly seats, I hate sitting in traffic. At least with a bike you’re always moving. Even if it’s swerving and braking to avoid hazards.

      2. Johnny

        he provided a link and context-are you challenging his ‘current’ numbers or just taking us on a trip down memory lane,to show that you know how use a search engine ?

        1. qwerty123

          I think Cian is showing us car ownership increased over the last year on year, directly contradicting Dan’s assertion in the article, and showing us the car ownership at the height of the last boom as a comparison. In 2008 the Greens were in power with FF. And we see there were more cars then than there is now. All relevant info.

          I take it you are the typical green supporter?

          1. Dan Boyle

            I was talking new car registrations which were confirmed by Cian’s figures. As it happens my figures are from March 2018.

          2. qwerty123

            Jaysus Dan, the main premise of your article is that car ownership is decreasing, new attitudes are forming, opinion is shifting, etc etc, you are wrong, but again, you plough on regardless.

            It is great actually, as it may deter people from voting for the greens, to see how the emptiest of vessels make most noise. We just need some former FF’ers here and we may be spared more bad governments.

          3. GiggidyGoo

            PCP does not equal car ‘ownership’. Car ownership figures i’d think are in decline due to PCP.
            There are also discrepancies. Are the figures real, based on registration? Ask someone you know that owns a dealership (you’d want to know him/her well though to get an honest answer) whether there’s a rush on car registration coming up to CSO calculation time, and whether then there’s a glut of de-registrations once the CSO put out their figures.

          4. qwerty123

            @Giggidy – PCP is the financing option, if you buy a new car on PCP it is registered as a new car sale. You own the car, it is registered in your name. Most hand it back after 3 years and get a new car in place as the price in 3 years is guaranteed by the dealer.

    3. Jonner

      new cars are so wasteful it makes sense that secondhand imports are increasing, especially with cheap Sterling.
      even at 3 years old you can buy most cars for half the new price (or less) with average mileage.
      problem is perfectly good cars over 10y old are expensive to insure.
      even with high tax, expensive insurance and extra maintenance, modern second hand cars with service history are far better value in most cases, unless you value the number on the registration plate.
      SIMI and all car dealerships would like you to think othereise

      1. qwerty123

        Agreed Jonner, some great value to be had. They are desperate to sell new cars though, I see PCP rates now at 0%. Sterling is hammering them

        1. Martco

          good.
          they deserve everything they get. playing dirty on UK imports since time began…discouraging them out of one side of their mouthes with -ve publicity campaigns & constantly attempting to avoid honouring European manufacturers warranties etc. etc.
          (you still to this day see the words Genuine Irish Car on some ads, wtf?!) WHILST quietly importing them themselves & selling on the forecourts.
          fupp them. PCP & finance deals is what they really sell anyway.

          can’t wait till Sterling parity arrives.

        2. Jonner

          Even at 0% finance, the loss due to depreciation is still disgusting. if you were to buy new with cash the price would be cheaper btw.

          most of the second hand dealers with decent stock import from the UK. Number plate snobbery and cheap finance has them fooled over there too

          Many of the main dealerships here also import second hand stock from UK. You’d be foolish not to, it’s easy and risk can be reduced by getting an independent pre purchase inspection

          1. GiggidyGoo

            @ Jonner. Agreed. I bought a top spec, second hand 2L german car, 3 years old with 100km for €13000 straight. That car’s retail price when new was €36k. That’s €23k depreciation in 3 years. And I have a ‘like new’ car apart from the mileage very cheap. It won’t depreciate €23k on me in three years.

      2. curmudgeon

        VRT is the real issue with importing. Successive Irish governments are ripping off motorists who cannot buy cars at EU market rates simply because of this illegal tax.

        1. david

          Very true
          It flies in the face of the Maastricht treaty
          Also insurance
          Why can that not be bought in other EU states for use in a EU state?

          1. Rob_G

            I thought you wanted out of the EU? If you think VRT is bad, wait until you see the import duties we will paying if your mad IREXIT fantasy is realised…

          2. GiggidyGoo

            @Rob. The import duties were replaced by VRT. The import duties were illegal as far as I know due to EU membership. Oddly enough those import duties (VRT now) were first imposed in order to protect Ireland’s motor manufacturing industry – FORD in Cork to be precise. FORD closed yet the duty remained. The EU then ruled that the duty was illegal (as far as I know),so to sneakily get around that, VRT was born. Courtesy of Bertram and FF. Cash cows never die. The ‘temporary’ USC is a case in point.
            So VRT or Mad duties will always add up to the same for the exchequer.

        2. Rob_G

          Just because you don’t like paying it doesn’t make it an illegal tax; several other member states have similar.

          1. david

            Regardless of wanting out of Europe
            I am pointing out a fact
            If Europe is to be inclusive then the population of each and every state should have protection against profiteering
            And the Maastricht treaty was to ensure free movement of goods and people not because the Irish revenue loose out Irish people have to keep on being ripped off
            Its your Europe vision that made the Brits want out
            Maybe you are part of the SCUnit blogging at taxpayers expense

      3. Pudge

        According to the AA, it costs nearly €11,000 a year to run the average family car. That’s an insane amount of money to be throwing away when it could be going into the family.

        1. Martco

          I would like that figure to be less but if true it’s worth every penny imo. because there isn’t a proper practical viable alternative just wishing & hoping & theoretical pie in the sky future generations nonsense

          1. Nigel

            Instead of just wishing and hoping, perhaps people could join in with various political efforts to achieve those viable alternatives, or at a bare minimum not get in the way of others who do?

        2. GiggidyGoo

          Doubt it Pudge. Not to run it anyway.
          Motor Tax (road fund license) Say. €. 500
          Fuel, a fill every 14 days. Say. €2000
          Insurance. Say. € 600
          Servicing. Say. € 600
          Tyres. Say. € 300
          €4000 to run it.
          Financing it though would bring it up to €10,000 perhaps

  3. Pudge

    Half of all journeys under 2km are driven journeys, in Ireland, according to the Central Statistics Office.
    2km takes just 10 minutes on a bike. And you don’t have to pay for parking or petrol or insurance or tax or NCT. And you get extra health benefits.
    Most cars in Ireland are stuck in traffic jams with just the driver inside.
    It would certainly be more sensible if all those journeys of 2km with just the driver were done on bikes.

    1. Cian

      Pudge – are you sure?
      This was discussed here before – and my memory was that it actually said that half of all car journeys are under 2km. Which is a different thing.

      This doesn’t invalidate the rest of your post which I thoroughly agree with.

        1. Cian

          Pudge – you were correct – half of all journeys under 2km are driven journeys.

          I’m sorry I doubted you… my memory is letting me down.

  4. Johnny

    speaking off letting go off cars, will The Greens given the simply horrendous treatment Gormley and The Party received from INM,settle a few scores ?
    or is still a bunch off tree hugging oddballs, lettuce and quiche eating,birkensock wearing, hippies as constantly caricatured by INM?
    looks like Sinn Fein are stepping up,come on The Greens get stuck into Fine Gael,i can send you a recent pic from a meeting in Davos,ah right that was in private…..

    regarding the piece-i use a bike or walk.

    1. Johnny

      Today’s Indo-the hits on Ryan and The Party just keep coming from INM,the bias is ingrained at this point.While Ryan has his detractors,it’s first time I’ve heard him accused of being a snob !

      “You could almost sniff the snobbishness oozing from the comments, but then that won’t come as a great surprise.

      As for Ryan, he is supposed to be in touch with the public mood in his native city, in which case you would think he might know that there’s a lot more regard for what Jim Gavin and his team have done for Dublin than for those in public life who have no more to bother them than a banner on a bridge”

      https://m.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/gaelic-football/martin-breheny-you-could-almost-sniff-the-snobbishness-oozing-from-criticisms-of-hapenny-bridge-dubs-banner-36795764.html

      1. qwerty123

        I think you are hoping people forget the greens were in power during probably, no definitely, the worst government we ever had.

        Our PRSTV system ensure there will always be 1-2 of these lunatics in the Dail unfortunately.

        1. Johnny

          at least they could make themselves useful by calling for a complete review off media ownership in Irl.
          it’s stretching credibility a bit to put it midly,that Les who can’t chew gum and walk at the same time,somehow spirited the entire INM backup server out off the building,singlehanded.
          he makes Blacks efforts to remove his private papers from his office in Toronto,look like a rank amateur which he’s not.

  5. Cu Cullan

    Ah Dan, now I know I twist your biscuit, but diesel, wasn’t it your lot that brought it in. A major reason not to cycle.. here’s what the GP always miss – the bigger picture. We will all be in electric cars as soon as it’s suits the money. You can help it with incentives. It’s how we prefer to travel. So, stop penalising it and help make it as clean as it can be..

    1. Rob_G

      Electric cars don’t really solve anything – where is all the electricity to power these electric cars going to come from? Thousands of electric cars will clog the roads just as much as thousands of ICEs will.

      1. Boj

        Diesel was incentivised by The Greens.
        The EPA states that air pollution is to blame for 1200 deaths per year…says Ciarán Cuffe anyway.

        1. Nigel

          Didn’t people go to jail for faking the emissions output of diesel engines on a massive scale? Was that Dan? Dan! Did you go to work for huge diesel manufacturers and fake emissions testing in order to fool pretty much the entire EU? Bold Dan!

  6. 7ollie

    ah yes. air quality. deteriorating since Dan Bolye and his beloved green party slashed road tax for poisonous diesel cars.

    millions in revenue lost and an increase in deaths as a result ofvpoor air quality.
    feck off and preach elsewhere Dan you hypocrite, or at least achmowledge your bad decisions in government.

      1. Cu Cullan

        Anyone who ever stood at the back of a diesel car could tell it was absolute nonsense. And what you’re really saying is that you and the GP believed the car companies and did their bidding.. I’m not sure what’s worse.. but both represent the mind of a fool..

  7. Johnny

    no luck baiting Dan….

    Ryan sits on the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment (despite his wife being a hack at the Herald),which is meeting next Tuesday and is scheduled to question Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon,on the data breach at Independent News & Media (INM).The ‘snob’ comments and general thrashing off Ryan by INM hacks,could simply be another coincidence…..

    He did ask one the few intelligent questions off Pitt (Les took a knee)-“Mr. Pitt said that INM has no interest in purchasing radio stations. Why did it look at purchasing Newstalk? What was the strategic imperative for purchasing Newstalk if now, as he says, it is not a strategic imperative?”-does Ryan have a source for such insightful questions ?

    Lowry also sits on this committee that’s for another time,yeah the ‘communications’ one-you cant make this stuff up !

    Anyway,good luck Eamon and Dan a good showing by The Greens on this issue,could go a long way with the electorate.
    https://www.kildarestreet.com/committees/?id=2017-02-07a.179&s=eamon+ryan+robert+pitt#g239

  8. Pudge

    To be fair to the Greens, diesel was considered a cleaner fuel at the time.

    The most important thing to bring in now is presumed responsibility for the larger vehicle in any collision, so a cyclist who hits a pedestrian is assumed to be responsible, a car driver who hits a cyclist or a pedestrian is assumed to be responsible, a van driver who hits a car driver, cyclist or pedestrian… a truck driver who hits a van driver…

    This presumption makes people cycle and drive much, much more carefully, and makes the roads safer for everyone.

      1. Pudge

        Drivers are overwhelmingly at fault in collisions with cyclists http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-14/cycling-collisions-should-drivers-be-held-legally-liable/8613858

        By the way, several German cities are experimenting with free public transport – it probably works out cheaper than paying the carbon fines (which Ireland too will be hit with if we don’t clean up our act) https://sciencetrends.com/germany-experiments-free-public-transportation-attempt-cut-air-pollution/

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