14 August, 2006
Few things get people more animated than talking about traffic and transport. Spike Milligan once observed that by virtue of having children he had made his own traffic jam.
I bought my Smart car just as they started to appear in Ireland. A friend told me that someone had just bough a car off the internet, and I was hooked. Six years later and 30,000 km down, it's working just fine, although I did have to replace the battery after ambitiously using it to jump-start the station wagon. It's always enjoyable finding a parking space too small for other cars to use. We got rid of that second car a year ago, and are happy with the decision. The teenagers didn't particularly want to travel with us anyway, and the younger kids hated being trussed into baby-seats for long periods at a time. They're much happier running around the DART or Luas. A few years ago it cost €20 to fill the tank. These days it's closer to €25, but that only happens around once a month.
Most days I cycle though. It's a good way of arriving on time and it beats the heck out of being stuck in the roadworks on the Rock Road. Unlike David Cameron I tend to cycle alone, that is, apart from a child or two on board during term time. Speaking of the Rock Road, it would be no harm if the PD's and Fianna Fáil could sort out their ideological differences and ensure that we get 200 instead of 20 new buses for Dublin and ensure that there will be at least a few buses on that Quality Bus Corridor when it eventually opens. Joined-up government how are you!
Reducing the need to travel or travelling by slow mode is part of the approach to tackling climate change emissions. The author and visionary Mayer Hillman, however introduced me to the concept of the 'no mode' or telecommuting in the early 90's, an even greener approach, unless the server farms' electricity bills get too high.
Of course you can always buy your way out of it, but creating vibrant mixed-use communities where you can live, work and relax in the same area can reduce emissions, even if it would make the architect and planner Le Corbusier turn in his grave. Corb felt we should live in areas strictly segregated by zoning, and while that kept the people away from the polluted industrial areas of his day it simply increased the need to travel in the first place. There's few things better than not having to travel at all by having what you need located close by.
Alternative fuels will help reduce our oil dependence, but even an acre of soybeans only yields 60 gallons of biodiesel, according to Chevron's ads. Anybody for a one off house with 5 acres of soybeans or sunflowers? I was much more impressed with Arnie's test drive of the Tesla, a funky new electric motor. It wasn't the 0-60 in 4 seconds that did it for me, but the idea that you could simply cover your garage in photo-voltaic cells in order to charge the thing, even if that only works with California's sunshine.
Higher density living in apartments and terraced housing will provide alternatives to travelling long distances to and from work, particularly if there's jobs close by. However people are understandably annoyed if they feel that their open spaces are being taken away from them, particularly if there's an absence of consultation or local plans.
Meanwhile Victoria in Australia has a nice site that shows how to reduce your load on planet Earth, Martin Cullen please copy; although we may need to infiltrate the Cumann in order to sway his hand.