The average car is stationary 96% of the time. That’s a fairly consistent finding around the world, including in Australia. A car is typically parked at home 80% of the time, parked elsewhere 16% of the time, and on the move just 4% of the time. And that doesn’t include the increasing time we spend at a standstill in traffic.
Bill Ford, executive chair of the Ford Motor Company, says we’re heading for “global gridlock”. And he’s not alone in saying we cannot simply keep adding more cars to our roads.
The funny thing is that while we own more cars than ever, we’re actually using them less. You might think that’s a good thing; that we’re responding to worsening congestion and health, debt and environmental damage by opting to drive fewer kilometres.
But the problem is, we’re still choking our cities and harming our health, finances and environment by continuing to waste our resources on these increasingly dormant vehicles.
It’s not just the car itself that’s wasted. Consider the resources and infrastructure – both private and public – needed to design, mine, manufacture, ship, sell, fuel, move, store, secure, insure, regulate, police, maintain, clean, repair and dispose of all these cars.
David Owen, a staff writer with The New Yorker, has called cars “consumption amplifiers”. They are emblematic of a hyper-consumerist lifestyle that doesn’t really make us any happier.
Our declining car use gives us an opportunity. If we can adjust our car ownership patterns to match our actual needs, we can plan our lives and cities in ways that don’t revolve around a mode of transport that no longer serves us like it used to.
By default, we still think of cars as fast and convenient. It might appear that way on the street, but the overall reality is quite different...