The advice of this article is: Don't drive a car unless you have to, which is seldom.
Many people will denounce this. Cars are fast, comfortable and get you everywhere. In modern day life you just need a car. And why we're talking about it, why give it up anyway?
The short answer to that last question is to say that cars have evolved from a useful transport vehicle to a big problem. The long answer is listed below.
- Cars cause traffice jams. This is the least negative effect, as the car drivers themselves suffer the most of it. Many of them will state that traffic jams are caused by a lack of roads and road width. The fact is that they are caused by the presence of too many cars. During many decennia the increase of roads has not been able to halt traffic jams. When roads are widened or multiplied, more people jump into a car and drivers drive longer distances, nullifying the increase.
- Cars use a lot of space. Main roads, excluding streets in urban areas, cover 3.5% of the total land surface of the Netherlands, despite the fact that they a narrow strips. In cities, entire streets and squares are stacked with cars, while other traffic is pushed into the margins.
- Car drivers are responsible for almost all fatal accidents in traffic. About half the time they kill other car drivers or themselves, but the other half consists of cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians. Those latter categories hardly ever kill somebody who drives a car. Car drivers themselves are well protected by steel casings, airbags and seat girdles, but little or nothing is done to protect people outside their vehicles.
- Cars are noisy. Municipalities build walls and dikes around their residential neighborhoods, not to ward off invaders or water floods, but to keep out traffice noise.
Last but certainly not least: Cars pollute the air.
This causes respitory diseases and probably most of the climate change too, with devastating effects.
In the Netherlands, about one quarter of air pollution is caused by cars.
During the nineties it became fashionable for car producers to advertise with "green" or "clean" cars, but the hard fact is that these do not exist. Sure, a car with a new engine that is 10% more efficient than a car with an older engine uses 10% less fuel and causes 10% less air pollution. But 90% of a lot of pollution is still a lot.
The car industry, after decennia of ignoring the problem, came up with hybrid cars and biofuel. The idea of biofuel is that the plants that produce it use up as much carbon dioxide in the process as is produced while burning it. Thus biofuel is "climate neutral". But the advertisers ignore the energy cost of planting, fertilizing, harvesting and transporting the fuel. They also ignore the fact that biofuel guzzles up valuable agricultural soil, which is needed to produce food.
The latest hype are hydrogen engines. These engines produce no carbon dioxide, only water vapour and thus they are advertised as fully clean. But hydrogen fuel cannot be dug up from the ground like oil. It must be made from water, which costs as much energy as it will yield when burned, or actually more if one considers heat leakage and all the energy involved in constructing factories and transporting the end product to fuel stations. The energy needed to make hydrogen fuel is taken from conventional energy sources, including oil, gas and coal. The net effect is a shift of pollution from traffic to industry and actually a slight increase of the total.
Cars are not going to be any "greener" or "cleaner" until they cut into the main causes their need for energy: mass and drag from the air. That means: smaller cars and lower speeds and nothing else.
I have a drivers license.
I used to drive daily to and from work, because my work locations where hard to reach by public transport. But during the years I have grown wiser. I switched to travelling by train, combined with a folding bicycle. In that way I travelled all over the country, without ever needing a car. Recently I managed to find work closer to home and now I even don't need the train anymore. I still drive cars, to help a friend to move to another house, or to transport heavy goods. I do that about ... twice a year.
I live in modern day life. I don't own car; I don't need it. If I can do it, why can't you?