Cars are good for your health!
Driving is an absolute necessity for millions – and, for many of those millions, also a pleasurable one. But it suits government, councils and anti-personal mobility groups to portray driving as essentially selfish. Then drivers can be demonised, treated with contempt, and exploited for revenue purposes. Therefore, we are constantly bombarded with alleged negatives of car ownership and use. Despite all this ‘bad’ press, over thirty million people have still chosen to own cars…………….
Public transport, when it exists, is good for going directly from ‘A’ to ‘B’, but not so good when most journeys mean going from ‘A’ to ‘E’, meaning via ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’. This typically involves changes of transport modes, dictated by timetables of various companies running the different systems (rail or bus or both) and trying to tie-up all the connections. Whereas a car will take you, your family and luggage, door to door in comfort.
Even those living in cities with excellent public transport, still need to journey to places that have little or non-existent public transport.
In the DfT document “Towards a Sustainable Transport System” it stated when comparing public transport in town and rural areas “The disadvantage of not having access to a car is greater in rural areas than urban ones, but public transport provision can both require high subsidy and be inefficient in climate change terms because of low passenger numbers per bus or train”.
Those extremist groups that oppose personal mobility say it is the destroyer of communities and roads must be ‘reclaimed’ – yet it is still the number one transport system by far. Not because it is being forced upon people by these self-styled mobility commissars, but because people have willingly chosen it, as being most suitable for their needs.
So for a change, let’s look at the positive contributions of the most personally-liberating invention of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Death of the High Street. It is often stated that out of town retail parks have ‘killed off the High Street’. There are a number of issues that are contributing to the demise of the traditional High Street: rates, internet etc, but from a motoring perspective, it is predominantly parking. Not just the cost, but also the lack of, parking spaces – combined with hostile parking enforcement of often confusing and contradictory regulations. Also, would most High Streets now be able to cope with the millions of people and cars that retail parks have attracted?
Disabilities. Programmes like the Mobility Scheme have made vast improvements to tens of thousands of people like no other form of transport can bring and have enhanced their lives, through more independence, job prospects and self-esteem.
Of course you do not have to have a disability, old age brings on many health problems, standing in the rain at a bus stop or train station is not going to make you any healthier! Driving gives you a fuller life which is accentuated as you get older when health problems start to dictate your mobility.
Heritage. Organisations like The National Trust, English Heritage and similar groups – plus hundreds of private houses and gardens – would not exist without car ownership. These are usually situated in more rural locations, typically with a lack of public transport options, and certainly not enough local people to support such businesses. Without customer access by personal transport (typically car/ van, but others e.g., PTW), historic houses would have been demolished or turned into hotels/ conference centres etc. Entire collections would have been sold off and dispersed worldwide; enormous tranches of our national history lost forever. Such places enrich people’s lives through being able to visit them and bring millions of pounds into the economy, because of foreign tourism.
Children/education. Travel can also equate to education, especially for children. Visiting places like those listed in the ‘Heritage’ section empowers them with knowledge and understanding of our history, or the other end of the scale, just sheer enjoyment of holidays, theme parks etc. Seeing an animal in a zoo is more likely to get a response than just reading about an endangered species in a book.
Nowadays, many schools operate after-school activities, having to fit all this in with children of different ages and needs does not allow much time for long, convoluted journeys that bus company timetables and their rigid destinations demand. The flexibility and comfort of the car cannot be matched by any other mode of transport.
Employment. No longer do people have to get a poorly paid job because it is near to their home, but can travel to better-paid jobs, perhaps with better prospects, and raise living standards for their whole family. This is especially true in more rural areas, where in the not-so-distant past, people in the countryside lived in rural poverty. Car ownership/ access has given them the opportunity to earn the same as town dwellers – possibly with even a superior quality of life.
Family bonding. How about those that do not drive? They benefit from visits from those that do drive, visits by children, grand-children, relatives or friends. Comforting to know that car ownership means often that family/ relatives are not far away and are accessible, in perhaps case of illness etc. A general strengthening of family ties by easier accessibility – which the car provides – or taking a non- driving family member on a day out.
Hospital visits. When you are sick or recovering from an operation, or have visited a very sick friend, do you really want to be travelling by public transport or cycling? Usually hospitals require a number of visits and a direct door-to-door journey is required. Often hospital visiting is done in the evening when bus companies are reducing their services; and you would be very lucky to find a direct route without changing buses at least once.
Shopping. When visiting your local DIY or garden centre, how many of the products purchased, can you get home, other than by car? Go to your local rubbish tip (or re-cycling centre if you want to be PC!) how would you transport these sort of items?
Time is an important issue in modern lifestyles, waiting around for public transport and connections is often not a practical option. Most people do not have the time to waste, or the inclination to do things the hard way, when there is a safe, practical alternative.
Caravanning/ Holidays/Driving abroad. Motor-homes, caravanning are extremely popular ways for people and families to enjoy themselves and get out-and–about and into the countryside. Is that not healthy? It also brings money and jobs into the rural economy. Go to coastal towns and you will see people unloading boats, jet-skis etc. All these need cars to tow them. Millions of people travel abroad by car. From bird watching to motor racing, model aircraft- to boot-fairs; the list of events for which people use their cars is almost endless. Why should they be denied these pleasures?
Days out. The flexibility of the car allows for unplanned days-out. You are able to set off with no specific objective, and can change journey destination and times to suit yourself. If you see something of interest, you just stop, take your time and then proceed elsewhere.
Health. While driving in itself cannot be considered as a ‘work-out’ those ending up at a gym, athletic track, football, swimming pool etc should be considered so. How many cars do you see with bicycles strapped on them, with whole families journeying together, to enjoy a ride in a country park or such like?
What is so ‘healthy’ about standing around in/ on a wet, windy, cold bus stop or station platform, or be confined with a PSV-load of coughing and sneezing fellow passengers!?
Well-being. Reports have consistently found that those who have access to personal transport are generally healthier (possibly helped by improved wages) live longer, feel they have greater control over their lives, and benefit from a sense of greater security and increased self-esteem.
Warning: Do not take your mobility for granted. There are many out there, who want to deny you that freedom of choice!
 PTW = Powered Two Wheeler