Last month I wrote about how buying electric cars will do little to cut carbon emissions over the next decade or more, and that the only effective response we have for decarbonising transport is to reduce vehicle-miles. What does this mean in practice?
For short trips, the first choice for most people should be to walk or cycle. Where this just isn’t safe, raise the issue with your county councillor and parish council. Improvements to pavements, cycleways and lighting should be a top priority for them.
For many longer, regular trips, such as going to work or school, public transport should be a viable option. If it isn’t, maybe ask your county councillor and parish council to explore options. If you live somewhere too out of the way to warrant a scheduled bus service, the solution is likely to comprise a useful bus service calling at a travel hub in your nearest large settlement; a safe cycle/footway to access it; and a shared-taxi/minibus service to shuttle people to and from the travel hub.
If travelling as a family or a group, a car makes perfect sense. But if there’s just one or two people in the car and little in the way of luggage, options to consider include ride-sharing or, for longer trips, taking the train and, if needed, hiring a car at the other end.
When ordering goods online, only opt for next-day delivery if you really need it. Giving the delivery company two or three days to schedule your shipment means they can plan more efficient vehicle routes.
All of these steps can reduce the vehicle-miles we are most directly responsible for without significantly reducing quality of life. In fact, physical and mental health can be enhanced by leading a more active lifestyle, interacting with people when travelling, and being more engaged in the local community.
We tend to think our personal efforts to decarbonise are insignificant. But we used to think that about using disposable plastics. Now we can see clearly the cumulative impact of billions of people’s actions, and it’s huge.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 16 December 2020.