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Thursday, 21 September, 2000, 09:31 GMT 10:31 UK
Will your transport habits change?
The fuel shortages are slowly coming to an end as petrol pumps get replenished across the country.
But with the end of the crisis comes an end to a by-product of this week's protests: a reduction in the levels of traffic and pollution as thousands of people cut down on the use of their cars and searched for alternative means of transport.
People re-discovered their bicycles and also the route to the local train station.
But will it last? Have the past few days made you rethink your attitude to your car? Or are you going straight back to your "wheels" as soon as the local petrol station reopens?
I am lucky to have been able to move home recently so that I can now walk or cycle to work. However, isn't this all a bit of a joke? A friend visiting from Turkey commented; "you are all being taken for a ride by your government, your standard of living is low, your choices are small, your public transport is appalling and your streets are dirty. You have more people, more cars and more taxes than anywhere I know. What does your government do with all the money?"
I had to say; "Wouldn't we all like to know, certainly they don't let people affect policy?"
We have made one significant change in our driving habits.
We live about 40 miles outside Halifax, N.S. and used to drive into Halifax for shopping etc once a week.
Now the price of gasoline has gone from 69.9 to 89 cents a litre, we plan our trips and only go into Halifax every fortnight.
(There is no train or bus service).
On a lighter note, we have both purchased two people-powered scooters for use around our local area.
To the people who say cars are dirty. Have you ever seen the muck that is thrown out of the exhausts of the 50-year-old buses that form our transport system?
Our laziness as a Nation prevents us using a bicycle or walking more than half a mile. We use an excuse "too old, it's raining, takes too long, etc" to avoid exposing ourselves to physical exertion. Look overseas and it's a completely different situation. Public transport has too far to go-expensive, dirty, unreliable and even dangerous. And where do you put your shopping, kids (without having to pay a lot more) etc? We need a more active lifestyle change and efficient, alternatively powered personal transport; we definitely have the technology. We just need people to get off their backsides and governments to stop relying so heavily on fuel tax.
There is no way on earth (as was proven during the fuel shortages) that all the people who drive into London could get on the train or tube systems. They are already running way over capacity. And for the fools who suggest I move nearer to where I work - I work in the city, and don't have £1m spare for an apartment at the moment!
Alex S, UK
Here in Oxford, house prices have gone through the roof, if you work in Oxford City the majority of people have to travel in to work. With the increase in residents parking, there is a reduction in the 'luxury' of a parking space at work. This means that people have to use the bus/Park and Ride system.
Paul R, UK
It's interesting to read the complaints about expensive, dirty and inconvenient public transportation in the UK. I have always envied, admired (and often touted) your system of getting around without a car! I live in freeway-worshipping California, where public transportation is a joke, at best. However bad your system is, it can't be worse than ours...
Andrew Pilcher, UK
I came to work by tram today, just the same as any other day, and it was still faster and more reliable than the car.
Methinks the UK needs to change its anti-public transport attitiude, just as soon as there is some.
In the UK the majority of car journeys are under 5 miles, a distance that is easily cycled. The problem is that Britain is becoming a nation of unfit couch potatoes for whom strolling down to the local pub is a Herculean effort. As 90% of Britons live in towns and cities, that suggests that only 10% can be fully justified in using the excuse that they live in isolated rural areas where public transport is poor.
People complain at how expensive public transport fares are - fair cop. But they also complain when their tax monies go to subsidise fares to make them more attractive. Sometimes, you just can't win.
"Public transport is bad because not enough people use it." Rhubarb! "Public transport" doesn't exist - the bus and train companies were privatised years ago. They are now run by private companies whose narrow commercial interests lead them to cut services and capacity in pursuit of higher profits for shareholders. Nationalise them all, make them put on the services that people need, and THEN ask people to ditch their cars for public transport. Incidentally, I walk to the station and take the misery line to work every day, so I don't have a pro-car axe to grind.
I take a 25 mile bus journey into work every day. Over the last few days the number of passengers on this bus has increased significantly and some of these new passengers have purchased weekly travel passes for this route. Pity the school-run traffic hasn't diminished, though.
Public transport usage is only a partial solution. The taxes raised on fuel should go on alternative fuel research to make cheaper, cleaner and more environmentally friendly transport, both public and private. Lets face it, people have got used to their own private transport and will not give it up. So the answer is to make those run on other means.
Lisa Blair, Scotland
While on holiday in Scotland last week two of us took the train for a day trip to Fort William about 45 miles away. Tickets cost over £16 each so by not taking the motorbike we spent an extra £22. Admittedly we could get refreshments but we were restricted on when we could travel and the journey took almost twice as long. Due to my shift patterns I am unable to use public transport but my latest experience merely underlines the benefits of powered two wheels.
Petrol costs no more now, relatively, than it did 25 years ago. Farmers already get a massive subsidy on their fuel. Hauliers wouldn't benefit from tax cuts, since their customers would simply demand the savings be passed-on. All we've seen is two vested interest groups paralyse supplies of an essential resource, in order to achieve their own narrow aims. What should worry us all is that we have painted ourselves into a resource corner where we can't do without our vehicles, but can't carry on using them as we do at present. Instead of blaming the Government we need to accept our own responsibilities. Forget about fuel tax - we need to plan for better public transport now, and be prepared to use it.
To the man says he has to drive 6 miles, take a 75 mile train journey and walk 600 yards to get to work I say this.... move house!
Vicki Clark, UK
Question: Do the people of the UK need to use their cars as much as they do?
I used to get the bus to work, it was cheap, left from the bottom of my street, and dropped me just 200 yards from my work. But the bus company saw fit to change the timetable to start running from 9am instead of 8am. How are people supposed to get to work when the public transport doesn't start until 9am either? I bought a car, and I'll have to continue to use the car until there is another viable alternative. As for my partner, they don't even run buses to his area of town any more.
Dave Houlton, UK Expat in Belgium
I need my car to get to work, and public transport is infrequent, expensive and dirty.
What I really want is a decent electric car, which will offer me performance and distance at a reasonable purchase price.
When Blair and Two Jags Prescott dump their cars so will I.
Although I do not require a car to get to work, I will certainly be looking at an LPG conversion or dual fuel car as soon as I can afford it. LPG has very low emissions and is almost half the price of petrol. I urge anyone else who has LPG stations near them to do the same. Tony has had it too good for too long and has invested nothing in eco-freindly transport development. He won't be getting any more tax out of me than I can possibly avoid.
I have been working for the last 32 years in the UK, continental Europe, Canada, Africa and Asia and the only time I have ever driven to work was when I had a short term remote site assignment in which case I either drove a company vehicle or got compensated. Otherwise I have always selected where I live to be within walking distance of work or, at worst, a short bus, taxi or subway ride. I fail to see why people live miles from where they work and make themselves utterly dependent on transport.
It hasn't changed my transport habits - I still walk to work. The company's moving next year, so I'll have to do something for my fitness and get a bike. If the weather's really bad, I'll
get the bus. Not everyone's able to do that, of course, but a lot are. At least they could share cars rather than having to sit in a traffic jam with one person per vehicle.
It's been great. The roads on Wednesday and Thursday were lovely and quiet for my 17 mile cycle to work. Nice if they stayed like that. But that's unlikely. Give us a week and we'll all be back to our old habits. Think of the tax revenue the government would lose if we didn't. My worry is that this stoppage was long enough to get folks pining for their motors but too short for them to develop strategies for getting about without them.
I was surprised. I caught a bus for the first time and years and it actually works out cheaper than using the car. It has made me think and maybe, just maybe, I'll get rid of one of one of our family vehicles. I'm even toying with an electrical assisted bicycle for those few dry days
This Fuel crisis has certainly had one good side-effect: it has made many of us THINK. Petrol is a luxury and we should start to respect it as such. Many of us in our office have been car-sharing or using the (rather poor) public transport.
I've moved house to be closer to my work so that I can cycle. Driving to work in York or London is unsustainable and public transport is erratic at best. I can't rely on anything but my own pedal power if I want to get to work on time each day.
As a regular Cambridge cyclist the main problem has been finding somewhere
to park the bike - the bike sheds at work have been more overcrowded than usual (the car parks have been full as well).
Due to all the panic buying in Manchester, I had no fuel from Tuesday to Friday, so I had to take the tram to work, what normally takes me 20 minutes, took me 1 hr 10 minutes, half of which was usually pressed up against 5 or so other people in a very overcrowded carriage. On top of this, it cost me £20 for the week travelling by tram, where it only costs me £10 to run the car for a week. Luckily I now have petrol - public transport is far from convenient, and is too expensive.
The Dutch have a marvellous infrastructure of cycle paths which not only makes their economy less reliant on petrol but reduces road congestion, air pollution and keeps their society healthier. This fuel crisis should be enough to convince everyone that more cycle paths are needed in every town and city in Britain. The loss in petrol tax revenue would be offset by less heart disease and reduced NHS expenditure.
I've taken the train for 4 days this week, involving getting up an hour before I would normally, and getting home an hour later than usual. If I pick the right times to go, I have found that the journey is a lot more relaxing than the drive, and if it wasn't for the appalling connections I would do it more often. Perhaps the best thing about the train is that everyone is in it together, people can jump queues, push in all they like, but ultimately they are on the same train as the rest of us.
If people re-organised how they go about things, they could most likely avoid some of the journeys they do in their vehicles, I used to drive to work all the time, but now walk and find it much more enjoyable and reap the benefits of lower fuel bills.
I deliberately chose where I live because I can easily get public transport to work, but then I am lucky from that point of view because I work in London. What we need is the same sort of public transport infrastructure in most other smaller towns and cities around the UK so that people don't have to use their cars.
I returned from holiday in Switzerland on Thursday. If our public transport was as good as theirs we could all benefit
As I'm disabled and find it difficult to use public transport. I shall be staying with my car not that I use it that often but I feel for the ordinary person trying to make a living.
If public transport was cheaper, then it would be used more frequently.
I was lucky enough to be able to make alternative work arrangements locally, and I made the journey by bicycle.
High prices have certainly made me slow down no more outside lane club for me. Fortunately I work as an internet developer and have worked from home during the crisis.
This whole fuel crisis is an uncomfortable reminder of just how dependent we are on private fossil-fuelled transport. We should walk or cycle as much as possible (I do in the village where we live, to get to the shop which is 3/4 miles away), but in some places in Britain, like the far north of Scotland where we live, we do not have readily accessible buses or trains and we drive through necessity. If we have to drive, we should use a fuel which emits the least amount of CO2 and other noxious.
If everyone filled there car up when needed then the pumps would have had petrol in easily until next week. The same happened in supermarkets. Its a British curse to panic.
Not me, I already bike everywhere (and it is not flat here either). I would welcome the chance to bin the car. We would all be healthier, happier, and it would slow the pace of life down. Wouldn't most of us like that ?
Change my mode of transport to what exactly? I use public transport whenever possible, and it is possible rarely. The ONLY thing that will get me out of my car for my work journeys is a good alternative NOT high fuel prices.
Sadly, I think most people will return to their cars at the earliest opportunity. Perhaps some of the mothers who drive their children to school in gas guzzling 4x4's might walk to school now and again!
How can they change? The fuel crisis has not made a bus route suddenly appear beside my house. It has not made the local train service any more punctual, or more reliable. The fuel crisis has, if anything, shown that our Public transport network is unable to cope with even the tiniest increase in usage. In the last few days, the trains have been overcrowded, late, cancelled.
I have always bought a house near a railway station so I can travel to work by train. A brisk walk to and from the station keeps me fit as I have a desk job. At the station and on the train I enjoy talking to 'the usual crowd' when we put the world to rights. I notice this week many new users have discovered the bar on our Inter-Cities and the fact you can chat to friends with a pint in your hand. Try that in a car. You can also use your mobile. The train is rarely late or cancelled. I really don't understand how people can sit in traffic jams. Oh yes I have two cars and have enjoyed driving since 1967
My travel habits have been unchanged. I catch a local bus from the end of the road to the station, the train into London and then another bus to the office. The trip normally works well, and has been better this week because of the lack of other traffic. I rarely use my car for long journeys, mainly for local trips around town when the bus is not convenient or I have a lot to carry. Therefore, one tank of petrol in a small and economical car lasts a long time. Unfortunately, it is a bit too hilly for use of my bicycle to be convenient!
Sadly, it is likely that most motorists will get back into
their cars at the first possible opportunity, given the
abysmal state over public transport and cycle networks
are. I only hope that these motorists now realise what
regular public transport/cycle users such as myself
have to put up with all the time. I'd like to think that they
would now support some investment into public transport
to level the playing field a bit - but I fear the majority of
motorists won't care about any mode of transport other
than their own. (Motorists: PLEASE prove me wrong on
that last point - after all, we do you a favour by keeping
the roads clear).
I would also like to see some accountability with this money, not some bottomless pit. Where is going, and what results can we expect in what time scale; development of Methane/electric cars in 20 years perhaps?
Phil W, UK
How can the vast majority of the people in this country change their
mode of transport to work or to the shops when we have such an appalling and expensive public transport system. Anyone who lives outside the major conurbation's cannot depend on rail or bus services to get them to work.
I never bothered with the train as from Northampton to Loughborough where I work as it meant changing train twice, paying more and the journey time would double. Since this crisis I have found that by driving 8 miles down the road to Wellingborough I can get a cheaper, faster and direct train to work. It will take a bit longer than driving but no more will i have to sit in traffic getting stressed, causing pollution. God bless the protestors.
It may not affect the way I use my car, because I use it as little as practicable any way. However it will probably affect my the fuel type of my next car, to the point of a dual fuel vehicle. As there are gas facilities in the area I live, it is a worthwhile consideration.
I will continue to cycle to work, and continue to get around Cambridge by bicycle as much as possible. I have driven 3.5 miles during the crisis - for me it was definitely "what crisis?"
The government has a dilemma. Although tax is important in keeping car use down (and obtaining revenue!) the UK on its own should not be made to feel that it is not eco-correct to fight for reduced fuel taxes. Fuel emissions are a global issue and therefore Europe should set a pan European fuel tax that acts to reduce car usage yet is fair between all trading partners, giving no economic advantage to any one country. The tax could then be put on alternative transport; something the Government fails to fund with the current fuel tax. In the Governments (past and present, the Conservatives deserve much of the blame here) haste to squeeze the motorist they have made UK haulage across Europe unprofitable.
The tax burden has been and remains the highest in the UK and we have every right to complain.
The past few days have made me
rethink the attitude to my car. I've remembered how good it actually is and how bad public transport is.
Dr. S, UK
I have been getting the train for the past 3 days (having cycled 6 miles to get to the station), what a con! £3.30 and 30 minutes to get 6 miles, they are packed, late and filthy. The staff have no idea (or don't care) what's going on, or even where there trains are going. I wonder why people choose not to use them?
As soon as I am fit enough I'll cycle the whole 12 miles, and beat the train.
Anglian railways should be ashamed.
My journey to work comprises six miles by car, 75 miles by train, 2.5 miles by tube and 600 yards walking. I do not intend to change my pattern of travel, which already makes extensive use of expensive public transport. Until we completely reconfigure the way we work and shop, we will continue to be dependent on existing modes of transport. It's time the green types stopped their whining and suggested some realistic alternatives. And a return to some form of pre-industrial, agrarian subsistent existence won't wash.
The Government should be encouraging people onto two wheels. How about no road tax for mopeds/motorbikes, and no VAT on new two wheeled vehicles?
Nick Earle, UK
Everybody's transportation habits are going
to change. We are on the verge of going to new
alternative fuels. In the next 2 to 5 years there will
hundreds of thousands of cars that are powered by
alternative means. You are going to see 'electric' cars
that are fully capable of 'highway speeds' and trucks too.
There will be more people riding small motorbikes. More usage
of public transportation and that will be much more efficient.
The world is changing and it is because 'OPEC' forced it to happen.
It most certainly will make us go back and consider conventional means of travelling. Cycling if the commute is under 5 miles, and public transportation if it's over. Of course if one is a health nut the cycling can be supplemented with walking.
Trains and bicycles aren't an answer, lower fuel-taxes are: the
sooner the government realises this, the sooner we can all get back to business-as-usual.
What difference does it make? Public transport fares are as much a rip-off as the fuel tax. - You cannot count on people's sense of responsibility to "save the environment" in a society where everything else is based on money. You have to give them an INCENTIVE. Just reaching deeper into their pockets if they are "environmentally naughty" is not an incentive; it is a punishment. And if you only hand out punishments without giving incentives, you should not be surprised to find yourself up against a rebellion one day. Let me put it into plain words: I wouldn't mind at all paying 3 pounds per litre of fuel, but then public transport has got to be FREE.
My transport patterns won't change.
I travelled by bike and public transport
before and during the crisis, and will
continue to after. Congratulations to
Brighton and Hove Buses for keeping
the service running.
Maybe I'll ride my bike a little more,
to better enjoy the 18 mile trip to
work if the buses can't run.
I tried cycling to work and enjoyed it, therefore I would consider cycling to work next summer.
However the public transport system is simply not good enough!
Andy Bates, UK
Sadly not until we can change the all to often appalling weather we suffer in the UK. When we can do that maybe people will be only to happy to cycle, walk or use public transport to get around.
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