Tuesday, 22 September 2009

A day without cars

Today is the European Car Free Day.

Yes? Ewa in the office had to drive her daughter (with cello) to school. She observed more cars on Warsaw's roads than usual. A 30 minute journey took her five minutes longer today. Mariola, who came in by bus, said that the journey was longer, the roads busier.

Why? Game theory. Commuters reason that because the city authorities have kindly allowed anyone who presents their car registration document (Polish equivalent of V5C) can travel on the Metro for free today, the roads would be empty today. So they drove. And the roads were packed.

This initiative is entirely laudable. But I'd say that sticks are more effective than carrots at getting the short distance, one-per-car, commuter to give up the convenience of kerb-to-kerb journeying to work. The alternative is there. But, as in my case, it took the introduction of parking meters to wean me off the car. Winter will be coming, the bicycle will soon become impractical. But on days when its warm enough, dry enough and light enough - and you don't have to drag anything heavy or bulky in to the office - there's NO EXCUSE NOT TO CYCLE. You'll physically feel so much better after cycling to work and back three times a week.

Worried about accidents? Heart attack from inactivity is twenty times more likely.

But in winter, I'm sure the car will come back into use, from time to time. The train from Jeziorki to Powiśle (which I took today!) is fine, a fold-up bike at both ends would be useful. I have an old Brompton from London, but Moni broke the plastic chain tensioner. I used this bike in London for years, cycling from home in Perivale to Ealing Broadway station, folding it up and taking it on the train to Paddington, then cycling from Paddington to my office on Tottenham Court Road. Total round trip - nine miles (14 km). Now that Warsaw is more civilised and cycle-friendly, I may well resurrect the Brompton for winter bike-train-bike commuting.

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