On yer bike! We all know that cars are noisy, polluting, traffic congesting things that we could probably do with less of. Yet, at the same time, there’s a sense of romance when it comes to motor vehicles; they represent freedom and individualism, the open road and the ability to go anywhere and do anything. That’s why car adverts always show cars driving through wide open plains or along high mountain roads, and never the way they are more typically used: stuck in a traffic jam on the way to work.

What would it take to make you fall out of love with your car? In many places, alternatives can seem thin on the ground. Public transport might be unreliable and cramped; distances might be too far (or it might be too wet or cold, or too hilly) to walk or cycle; and cities and towns might be designed around cars. However, are these insurmountable obstacles? The World Bank estimates that roughly 20% of global CO2 emissions from fuel combustion come from transportation, including planes, trains, and cars. So, should we be driving less and walking (or bussing and biking) more?

What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Cyril, who sees enormous advantages to using cars less: less energy consumption, less pollution, a re-dynamism of the economies of cities, and so on. Is he right, or is he overplaying the advantages and ignoring the disadvantages? For example: not everyone can get about easily by bike, and public transport may be unreliable in some areas.

To get a response, we spoke to Daniela Jacob, Director of the Climate Service Center Germany (GERICS), an independent scientific centre – though it was originally set up by the German government – and now part of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres (HZG). Did she think we should all be using our cars less?

We also had a comment from Michael, who worries that we are focusing too much on the transport sector and not enough on other (more polluting) sectors, such as agriculture. Should we stop trying to get people out of their cars and instead focus on getting people to eat less meat? Or ensuring that food is grown and livestock raised in a more sustainable manner? Can we not do both at the same time?

How would Daniela Jacob respond?

Might new technology be the solution? We had a comment sent in from Paul predicting that, over the next decade, car ownership is going to plummet because of apps like Uber and BlaBlaCar, as well as Artificial Intelligence and driverless cars. Is he right?

To get a reseponse, we put his comment directly to Frédéric Mazzella, the founder and President of BlaBlaCar (and one of our sister think tank Friends of Europe’s European Young Leaders). What would he say?

I think, rationally, the number of cars should be lower per person because we are using them better. Today, cars are parked for 96% of their lifetime. When they’re on the road, 3 out of 4 times, there’s only 1 driver on board. So we don’t do rational usage of our cars. Now with technologies – network technologies, platform technologies – we are able to make a much better usage of our car fleet. So in the end it should reduce the number of cars needed per person. Cars are the only vehicles that are used so little. If you look at buses, trains, airplanes, they are on the road 50 to 80% of their lifetime. Cars are on the road only 4% of their lifetime and they cost a lot of money.

So, rationally, thanks to technology, we will diminish this ratio, which also means we will most probably not have to own cars, but will be using services which offer the possibility to have cars. I think it’s a good thing for reducing congestion, reducing pollution and also the energy that is needed to create and produce cars.  So, yes, I think he’s right. It’s super hard to know in what proportion though.

But what’s going to change is who owns the cars. Some entities will still need to own cars – possibly it will be car fleets owned by a new type of rental car companies. It may be actors like BlaBlaCar or Uber who will own their own fleets. It may be other actors in the mobility sector who will want to own fleets. So we don’t know who will own the fleets, but most probably the ownership model will change. It will not be individual car ownership. It may be shared usage of cars which move alone, because autonomous cars, obviously, will change things.

We will see autonomous shuttles on specified circuits as soon as next year in many cities. For the full, level 5 autonomous cars, we will have to wait another 10 years I think. For BlaBlaCar, this change – including autonomous cars – is not affecting the activity itself so much, because what we do today is we match drivers who own the car with 2 or 3 passengers going the same way. What we will have to do tomorrow with autonomous cars will be to actually match 3 or 4 passengers going the same way with an autonomous car. But it’s not that different. It’s still matching intentions of travels from people who do the same rides. It’s important to note because many people are asking ‘If the car ownership model changes and autonomous cars enter the world fast, what will change in the services?’ I think BlaBlaCar will be here and will be used even more with autonomous cars than today.

What would it take for you to give up your car? Should we all be using our cars less? Or are we focusing too much on decarbonising the transport sector and not enough about other, more carbon-intensive sectors, such as agriculture? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: (c) BigStock – Wladimir.B
This debate is part of the SHAPE ENERGY project. By participating you are confirming you are 18+. Contributions to the debate may be directly quoted (anonymously) in the SHAPE ENERGY reports. If you do not want your contribution to be used, send us an email within two weeks of posting your comment.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 731264.

73 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?/

  1. avatar

    Well it is going to be very nice if we start using the bus once every to go to work

  2. avatar

    A brand new MV Agusta Brutale 800RR

  3. avatar

    Lightweight, foldable bike, no more than 2kgs in weight.

  4. avatar

    Nothing i Will never give that up

  5. avatar

    Nothing, I like my independence.

  6. avatar

    For the next year I will not be using my car so much because I have to go to school and the bus is more convenient because of parking, time etc. But I will drive on a weekend to go to see new places, meet friends etc. My car is freedom of mobility and I am not giving that up.

  7. avatar
    Colin Browne

    Ireland needs to change its laws on battery scooters (any mechanically propelled vehicle has to be taxed and insured). If that changed, electric scooters would be much more accessible. Not perfect, but a start.

  8. avatar
    catherine benning

    What would it take for you to give up your car?

    It would take a device that is the equivalent of a jet back pack, but, in car form to enable me to have other people with me as I transport them, as well as room for dog, groceries, shopping and items needed by passengers, etc.. This device must easily lift up into the air, with its jet propelled engine, and fly through to my ready destination. Filling stations for jet fuel dotted all over the place.

    To take to the bicycle, with the hectic life we lead, school, kids, shopping, sick relatives, groceries, work obligations, etc., is ludicrous. And please don’t cite deliveries. First, they are an extortionate cost. Do not show up on time. Will not bring them into the house or even help you to do so. Then you find they are not the item you ordered and returning them is a nightmare.

    Here is one simple example: Order an item suggesting it covers a window to make it appear it is made of stained glass. The size is quoted, but, not where it is coming from. They give a date of a few days for arrival. Along with a UK address. It doesn’t arrive. You wait another week just in case. Then contact the agent sender. They send email saying sorry, it will be there in x days. It again arrives late, you have paid for extortionate posting costs. Finally it shows up, but, it is not the size promised. You tell the agent, they send on the message to seller and it turns out to be in China, which was kept from you. They are all apologetic, but, want you to take photographs and email it to them to prove you are not lying. You then have to take the time to put the item on the wall with a measure which takes an age and you have to get assistance. You then have to send the pictures to the agent who then send it on to the supplier. By this time 4 to 5 weeks have gone by. The agent writes telling you you can return it, but, they do not send you a return label. So, you have to write again, it is now almost 8 weeks since you ordered the item. They write back and say they will email you a return label. Again you have to write back and say you do not have a printer for the label. They write back and say you must go to a place that will, for a cost, give you access to a printer. They will not pay for your cost or time. You get the label, having paid for it, to send it to China. At the post office they will not guarantee anything going to China unless you pay three times the amount of the cost as they are rarely received in China.

    This, of course, makes the return of the item not in your best interests as the cost and time for all this nonsense is prohibitive. So the company who is selling the item are in pocket as they have your money. The intervening agency is in as they too have the % they charge the seller for being a go between in advertising and taking the order. You are the only one out of pocket. And without an item you can use as it is not what your ordered.

    First off, how they can sell anything without having to expose where the product is being sent from is exploitation. The date and time having been false. Then all parties keep your money for a miss sold product. Then you read in the news the company, who is the agent in this deal made, several billion pounds last year being a go between for the world and with your billions in their hands, pay no tax to cover the infrastructure of your country, which makes it possible for you to purchase through their accounts. This is highway robbery. How the rich legally take your money by misrepresentation, all sanctioned by your government is fraud. What are these lobbyist paying the officials in charge of this nonsense? And doing it via money laundering tactics to keep you as stooges to these people.

    No wonder they want us to give up our cars. That way we would become even further dupes in their ploy of your money for them doing nothing..

  9. avatar

    Fast interconnected public transportation network and well-developed bicycle infrastructure – lanes, bicycles for rent, bicycle hubs and parking spaces…. Come to think of it, Japan has very effective solutions in terms of storing bicycles and cars on limited strips of land…
    Otherwise the car is the best way to get from point A to point B when the above-mentioned factors are missing.

  10. avatar

    I will NEVER give up my car !!! I don’t want to wait ages untill a bus comes and then to be forced to share space in it with people I don’t like. And, I love my car…

  11. avatar

    I don’t own one, many people my age don’t. It’s too expensive to own a car.

  12. avatar

    I think, in terms of government, we need to float the idea that it’s okay to take a loss on public transport in the name of lowering carbon emissions and protecting the environment. It’s cheaper to subsidise public transport than overhaul an entire country sized fleet of personal cars to electric. Yes, cycling paths are important but cycling isn’t for everyone and some cities aren’t suited to it.

    It’s also empowering for the middle to working class to have access to public transport, it increases the range which they can live away from the city and places they can reach in the city, increasing employment options. And cutting the number of cars on the road is good for both the local standard of living and the environment globally.

  13. avatar

    Living within 20min walking distance of my job and at least 1 grocery store within 5-10min walking distance.

  14. avatar

    Probably a long lasting heartrate of 0bpm and blood pressure of 0.

    Driving is the only thing keeping me sane. Public transport cannot cater to my needs at any level, i can’t walk in a bus with 3 meter long steel pipes or sheets of metal. My car is only place where i can blast my music on full volume and no-one can complain. On past my work has involved emergency duty (snow plow truck driver) and required use of personal vehicle to get to the truck.

    And if possible, i’d rather move further away from annoying people that complain about everything and that would mean having a home on countryside.

  15. avatar

    A really really good bus service that runs 24/7

  16. avatar

    ..nothing…it is about possibility for non scheduled mobility .

  17. avatar

    Passar inte mig alls då jag bor på landet med 35km till jobbet i sverige med snö, is, regn samt nästan obefintlig kollektivtrafik. Skulle kunna ha en eldriven mc på sommaren.
    Doesn’t fit me at all when I live in the country with 35 km to work in Sweden with snow, ice, rain and almost non-existent public transport. Could have a electric mc in the summer.

  18. avatar

    Giving up my car? When I’m six feet under.

  19. avatar

    I gave up my car about 5 years ago. I was tired of paying for insurance, fuel, tolls, parking, and maintenance. There is also the issue that all the cars you buy now are ugly as hell, and full of computers, meaning you are not allowed to fix them yourself without risking a hefty lawsuit from the manufacturer. I haven’t regretted it once. It’s cheaper to take a taxi every single day than it is to own a car. Cars are being phased out in favor of “self-driving” vehicles anyway. Within a decade or at the very most, two, you won’t have the option of driving yourself.

  20. avatar

    Living in a rural area 3 k from a village – no I will not give up my car, it’s ok in a town but in a rural area virtually impossible

  21. avatar

    Once middle class men had a car, a home, a family and a gun. Now middle class men can not afford a car (and media advertises bikes and car pooling/sharing), rent a home (can not afford a real home), classic family is mocked in the media, and guns are prohibited throughout Europe. “It is better” some say…

  22. avatar

    Public transport. Nearest currently 28km away, then only goes one direction.

  23. avatar

    Cheap fast reliable public transportation in distances greater than 50km but even then I will keep my car in the garage just in case I need it

  24. avatar

    Living and working in Asia for about 10 years. When you see billions of people coming out of poverty then wanting a car, family, house stuff to fill the house etc.
    Then I got rid of my car – and I love them, and motor bikes.
    Nearest village with decent shops? About 12 k.
    I’m fitter, slimmer and smarter – more oxygen to the brain.
    BTW I’m 75.
    No science, easy to read.

  25. avatar

    Fewer cars, or designated cycle lanes so I’d feel safe.

  26. avatar

    I gave up my car when I moved to a city which actually has decent 24 hour public transportation.

  27. avatar

    Never owned a car, and never intend to. Instead I chose to live close to work, so I’m not waisting part of my life in traffic, and all of the expenses that come with driving.

  28. avatar

    Everyone to go vegan first 🌱💪🏻

  29. avatar
    EU Reform- Proactive

    What a question!

    Is the choice of such Q/Theme a political important one for the EU? Why are we guided (herded) to participate in (questionable) political debates- bordering on gossiping, revealing more & more of our personal preferences- who in turn will be captured to become the property of others? Are we moving towards a forum of gossipers & captured ones?

    Would that not be a more relevant concern for its sovereign Members, their national town planers, designers & engineers who are adapting norms & standards- as habits and climate change- futurists, technological innovators, car & alternative transportation designers & manufacturers?

    Urbanization pressures, freedom of choices in the EU by many, lesser choices by others, none by a few, a free market driven economy of risk, reward & consequences, its eventual technological innovations do not need EU political determinations & regulations beforehand!

  30. avatar
    robert cox

    Live in city centres (not suburbs) and use public transport, or walk, or combine both. Bicycles are not for everybody and are becoming a nuisance in some cities. When, occasionally, you need a car use a car-sharing scheme like Cambio in Brussels.

    The big problem is the cost of renting and the shortage, in many cities, of accomodation. Radical measures against property speculation are required. Radical measures too to improve social/public housing stock. In cases where properties are left unoccupied or derelict authorities to have rights of seizure.

  31. avatar
    Olga Cosmidou

    I have a knee problem not allowing me to use public transport or a bike. All this discussion leaves out people for whom car is a necessity. Please take this into account.

  32. avatar

    A car is an invention that benefit the mankind. It is only the fuel the car needs to consume that is causing pollution. If we can find a fuel that would not pollute, why we should give up using a car?

  33. avatar

    When people are provided with a good mass transportation system with which we can go everywhere easily and within reasonable time, I suppose that not many people would like to drive to their workplace. Those who cannot drive or too old to drive can still go sight-seeing and visiting friends and families everywhere they want.

  34. avatar

    I don’t drive a car. I have a driving license but I just don’t drive. I walk on foot everytime when possible. However I’m totally against any kind of laws or even ideas about such laws that try to discourage, to limit or to forbid people to drive a car.

    • avatar

      Крис Караджов I note you ‘walk on foot’ it’s a lot easier to walk on the ground.

    • avatar

      Christian Chopin – let’s try you writing in Крис Караджов’s native language. Not nice to attack minor mistakes of people speaking English as a foreign language.

  35. avatar

    It is not the cars that is the main problem, but what we use them for. Big cities around the world have seen significant drop in pollution when the pandemic caused companies to close their offices and let their otherwise daily commuting employees to stay home. A car is just a tool, not the cause and sometimes it is the only tool we have, but we can definitely do is completely rethink where we go and why. A huge improvement can be achieved by reducing the need by allowing remote work, plus using shared office spaces that can be booked in the most convenient places for those who still need to meet. Also I am pretty sure that with proper analytics there is a lot more that can be improved by simply making people’s life more convenient. No one likes spending hours in traffic jams. But would I completely forfeit the use of a car? Absolutely not.

    • avatar

      Gabor Molnar You are not taking into account the social aspect of ‘going to work’ People NEED to get out of the house, to meet colleagues and to work in teams. Being stuck in the same place, with your husband or wife 24 hrs a day will increase domestic violence and drive people into depression. It is a stupid unworkable idea.

    • avatar

      Christian Chopin I am sorry, but I am taking that in account. I have never said do not let people go to the offices, but do not force them to go their if they don’t have to. Do not twist my words please.

  36. avatar

    Bikes are for gays and woman. Cars are for man, especially if they pollute a lot.

  37. avatar

    When one lives in a small rural town where there is hardly a horizontal street, in a climate that has snow for at least 5 months a year and temperatures falling to -20°C in winter, one has a car. If it stands idle for 96% of the time, it also doesn’t pollute 96% of the time.

    • avatar

      Kimmo Linkama That’s rarely the case. A car bought is also a car used.

    • avatar

      Gerhard Papenburg – the 96% standing idle comes from the article. No idea where they got that percentage.

    • avatar

      Kimmo Linkama And you just casually ignored all sentences right next to that number? xD

    • avatar

      Gerhard Papenburg – your point being…?

  38. avatar

    Dont have a car because I have a bike :D

  39. avatar

    If i live 22 km from city can you explain me how can i give up my car? Or you suggest me to bike to work ? :D How about Older people you expect them to bike ?

  40. avatar

    This laws in general sound stupid. What if its -20c do you expect people still bike to work? Not everyone lives in warm places you know.

    • avatar

      Olen koukussa peräkoukkuun.

  41. avatar

    I will give up my car when Greens will stop imposing me that with funny speed limits, rocks in the middle of the streets, one way direction streets leading nowhere and artificially created traffic jams

  42. avatar

    A paid chauffeur with his own car!

  43. avatar

    With good alternatives to having a car I might stop owning one. Bycicles are definitely not an alternative.They can be excellent, but only for a narrow group of users.This bycicle craze is completely ignoring the real needs and trends.(Electric and autonomous vehicles anyone )

  44. avatar

    We will never replace cars with bikes, economy will collapse! With no cars, or less cars means less gas, less gas stations, less auto loans, less tires, less car parts, less auto shops, and so on! Many folks will lose their jobs, and you cannot create new jobs at the pace you are destroying them! The contradiction is that we need to choose between nature and economy one, you cannot have them both. You might make the situation better, but not gonna have a perfect world!

    • avatar

      Sohrab Sajadi you will create jobs in the Bike industry and usually also in the public Transport industry. Also that will presumably not compensate the whole automotive industry, especially in Germany. But I am sure we will find other useful ways People can add value to society and create jobs, such as in Recycling, renewable energy or IT.If that is a transition for the next 10-20 years I dont See why that should Not be possible.

    • avatar

      Chris Pi economy is more complicated than wishes!

    • avatar

      Sohrab Sajadi well, some people believe economy would regulate itself ;) I made some suggestions in the direction it can regulate it self or can be supported / regulated in…

  45. avatar

    Either affordable housing in the area I work, affordable train travel or faster buses. A 21 mile bike trip to work is not a sensible option

  46. avatar

    Cyclists and eRoller drivers need to get on the roads instead of on pavements injuring the public. They really need to learn basic behaviour of where to ride and how. Pavements are for pedestrians not for unruly riders or underage kids crashing into senior citizens. Most countries can’t even fix this problem. Trashing cities by dumping eRollers blocking access to buildings and pavements is another growing problem. This insistence on letting go of cars while creating other problems, is a very strange first world phenomena.

    • avatar

      They should also pay road tax, if riding on roads, which they should be doing. Riding them on pavements is extremely dangerous.

    • avatar

      Christine Griffiths I totally agree. Especially the fast speed ones. They should have the same regulations as ordinary vehicles.

    • avatar

      Sarwat Ayub

  47. avatar

    A amsterdam roads and electric two-seater roof covered and heated to go to work.

  48. avatar

    Absolutely nothing, and this soviet-like scheme to get everyone dependent on public transport is disturbing, needless to say there’s no way people living 20+ km from their workplace are going to bicycle

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