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Rob on the road Thursday, 9 May, 2002, 16:24 GMT 17:24 UK
Pay as you drive
Car club member Piers Calascione
Piers Calascione is very happy with the scheme
Persuading motorists to give up their cars is proving a difficult task for the government.

Ken Livingstone's plan to charge people driving into London is doing little for his popularity.

A common complaint from drivers is that the public transport network doesn't offer a viable alternative.

But as I travel round the country, it's obvious that more and more cities are in danger of grinding to a total halt.


Manchester, Bristol, Southampton - they all seem choked with traffic for much of the day.

In fact, at one Bristol factory I visited, workers left off at 3.30pm to beat the rush hour.

So it's appropriate that the city is home to a transport scheme that is growing fast.

Car clubs are springing up all over the UK - there are now about 40.

Annual fee

The idea is that the club owns a number of cars and members pay an annual fee which allows them to book a vehicle for when they need it.

Computer booking
Bookings can be made online
It might be an hour or two, it could be for a whole weekend. Bookings can be made by telephone or online.

Members then pay 2-3 for each hour they use the car and 15-20p a mile, which includes petrol.

Piers Calascione is a wedding photographer with five children. He wanted to ensure his family always had use of a car but wasn't sure how to meet his own needs.

He considered a second car, hiring a vehicle and even buying one jointly before opting for the car club.

Business expense

"It's a cost I can set fully against tax as a business expense, it's reliable, it's efficient and the booking online works very well," he says.

"You have to change the way you think about cars and what they are for. I'm not really interested in the business of status and ownership - I'm interested in getting from A to B.

Piers with safe
The key is kept in a safe near the car
"The costing of this scheme works out to be a far better deal than hiring a car. At the end of the day it works on the wallet."

The Bristol club has 50 members and four cars. It was set up in conjunction with the local council and the Bristol Community Car Clubs Association (BCCCA).

It's managed by Smart Moves, a non-profit making company which helps set up schemes and provides software and booking systems.

The concept comes from Europe, where such schemes are long established.

More walking

Research has shown that the existence of car clubs can lead to fewer new cars being registered and an increase in cycling and walking.

"We're about 10 years behind the Continent, where there are huge clubs, particularly one in Switzerland with over 40,000 members," says Iris Eiting of Smart Moves, who manages the Bristol scheme.

"That's what we're aiming for in Britain."

The AA calculates that the cost of running a small car can be as much as 2,700 a year.

Kate Geary
Kate Geary: It does change habits
Petrol and maintenance adds up to another 14p for every mile you drive.

But car clubs aren't just about providing hassle-free motoring.

If you use the cars a lot you could find it's not much cheaper than having your own.

It's as much a way of encouraging people to rethink their transport requirements and cutting out unnecessary journeys.

"People have to stop and think 'I have to make a booking, I have to walk five minutes down the road to get a car', so it does change people's habits a little bit," says Kate Geary of the BCCCA.

It might be some while before car clubs are as widespread in the UK as they are in Europe, but there couldn't be a better time politically for them to take off.

Car club member Piers Calascione
"It's a good solution to Bristol's problems with traffic congestion"
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