Cars now a necessary evil

October 21, 2017

This week will be five years since I got my drivers licence and sometimes I wonder if it was the right choice.

It’s not that I think I am a menace to society behind the wheel (I haven’t had a prang yet) but how having a car changes your habits.

I was not in a rush to get my licence as soon as I turned 18, unlike my friends.

I didn’t want to spend a couple of grand on a big chunk of metal that continually costs money, so just got by without a car.

Occasionally it was a pain. Too many hours would be spent sitting on a bus, or worse, just waiting for a late bus that you hope will eventually arrive.

But I got by. I always made a point of living somewhere central, and even if that did mean shelling out extra on rent, it was more than made up by not spending on a giant rust bucket that eats cash.

I might have never got my licence, and just been that weird person who rides his bike and catches the bus everywhere.

But when I became a journalist, I realised it was completely impractical to not have a licence.

I would be useless in a newsroom if there was a breaking news story across town, and I had to wait an hour for my bus to arrive.

I sucked up my pride, got my licence, bought a car and quickly became just like everyone else.

After a while you notice how a car changes your behaviour.

While I previously wouldn’t have minded a 20-minute walk to the shops, these days I always reach for the car keys.

I used to plan the grocery shopping with military precision, so that I only had to go once a week.

But these days I’ll usually go in several times a week, and often to buy just one or two things I need that day, because getting to the shops is no longer an issue.

The more I drove the more I realised that Australia is a country that is designed for the motor vehicle.

We have big cities and big houses and don’t like to be sitting on crowded buses.

Part of me wishes we were more like Europe, with its beautiful cities designed for public transport, bikes and walking.

But the car is a luxury that most Aussies will never want to give up their big houses in the suburbs or their fancy cars for, even if it does mean endless traffic jams and long commutes.

And despite hating how much cars cost me, I realise it has changed me too.

Even if I were to quit journalism and get an office job in the centre of Melbourne or Sydney, where public transport is plentiful, I wouldn’t give up my car.

Walk to the shops in 20 minutes or get there in the car in five? I’ll take the easier option.

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