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John Vidal (The age of ‘the car is king’ is over. The sooner we accept this, the better, August 30) concludes that because cars kill and injure thousands, our roads are polluted, clogged and expensive are in acquisition and operation, their time is running out. If only.
The examples he gives of car-free benefits relate to cities where high population densities mean public transit is frequent and inexpensive, local shops and businesses can be viable, and people can easily reach them without a car.
Car ownership has allowed the proliferation of low-density suburbs where public transit is not cost-effective and there are fewer people to support local businesses, so, coming full circle, we need cars to access these scattered services to get: jobs, schools and shops.
Current free planning exacerbates these problems: low-density settlements scattered throughout every town and village, all requiring cars to get anywhere or do anything.
We need a new planning framework based on sustainable principles and not on lobbying by property developers. This would mean intensifying existing neighborhoods, establishing higher building densities and sustainable settlement sizes, limiting greenfield development, and integrating services and public transport. Only then can people manage their everyday life without a car and see the benefits that Vidal lays out.
Henley on Thames, Oxfordshire
• May I ask where John Vidal lives? Probably in London or another big city. We have just returned from visiting friends in the Northumberland countryside where it is an eight mile drive to the nearest bus route for a once a day two days a week bus. When they need groceries, a ride in their electric car is more viable than an electric scooter, a ride-sharing app, or the other solutions Vidal suggests.
Harrogate, North Yorkshire
• It makes sense to remove private cars from big cities, but many of us who live in villages have no choice but to drive.
I would gladly do without my rarely used bus ticket in favor of reliable, regular bus services. Bury St Edmunds (our shopping center of choice) is only accessible by car. Our choice of cultural center, Snape Maltings, is the same. We’re happy to pay £3 for a return trip. Likewise, we’d take the bus to Ipswich, less for shopping than for the theater or dance house, but the last bus home leaves at 5pm, which excludes all but the earliest matinee.
If the UK Government had the foresight of our continental neighbours, we could have a properly subsidized and efficient public transport system charging reasonable fares.
• John Vidal is impressive proof that we need to end our dependency on cars. But “car culture” remains strong as manufacturers and celebrity enthusiasts continue to tout cars as things to love and as status symbols — perhaps with a little help from a fossil-fuel industry anxious to delay its own eventual demise.
Will Generation Z kids really continue this love affair with something as old and raw as an internal combustion engine? I do not think so. Certainly cars will remain essential for a while longer as a more connected society is built. To this end, they can easily be made more functional and less polluting.
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