As fuel costs soar, will it cut the number of lazy car journeys in the city?

by Colin Campbell

EVERYWHERE you look now there is headline news about the soaring cost of fuel.

A young relative told me his regular car journey south on business used to cost him £35. Now it’s risen to £50.

I’m lucky. If I want to go for the day to Edinburgh or Glasgow it costs me £1 to book the journey on my free bus pass, with tea or coffee and shortbread on the short three and a half hour journey thrown in. And very pleasant it is.

It’s completely unknown how high the cost of petrol or diesel would have to go to cause a noticeable reduction in car usage in Inverness. Certainly it seems to be having no impact on that so far, none at all. The roads are as traffic clogged and choked as ever.

And the number of two car families seems to be expanding. I’ll wager there are more now than there were 10 years ago, and a lot more more than there were 20 years ago.

I packed in driving a car 15 years ago which, going by the average yearly cost of running a car, will have saved me around £50,000. And it’s true, sometimes I do miss having a car because of the travel flexibility it gives, but I don’t miss it very much. Public transport out of town north, south, east or west is more than adequate.

Last week I bought a new bike, nothing fancy, just a solid and reliable means of getting around, for £900. Like its predecessors, it won’t cost thousands a year to run, but maybe £200 for servicing.

As far as cycling goes, I wouldn’t be seen dead in one of those ostentatious lycra outfits festooned with garish emblems looking like some Tour de France wannabe. And as far as the environment goes, I’m not much interested in Net Zero or Carbon Footprints either. Some of those who most zealously promote Nets and Footprints look so fat that the average bike might buckle under them if they hoisted themselves into the seat. I wonder what mode of travel they use to get around?

Many people need cars, particularly if they have young children. But it’s always seemed too many are dependent on them, even for very short journeys, as in virtually to the end of the street. I have relatives who hop into their vehicles for the shortest of journeys, and they are very far from being alone. The aversion of some people to exercise or even the lowest level of physical activity seems to be expanding, along with their waistlines, all the time.

I seldom use the bus in town. But a couple of weeks ago I couldn’t quite believe it when a plump young woman with no physical impairment boarded at the bus stop at the Tesco store in Tomnahurich Street and disembarked at the Post Office in Queensgate, which is all of a five minute walk. Astonishing.

As these “Crisis, Crisis, Crisis” headlines on fuel costs appear with such screeching regularity now it does make you wonder if more people will get a cheaper mode of transport or will be more inclined to expend shoe leather in covering a mile or two for a healthy walk rather than automatically slump into their cars.

There is nothing positive to be said about the fuel crisis, which is part of the reason for the steep rise in food prices and other goods.

But if it caused some people to adapt their habits and lessen their car addiction there might at least be some glimmer of hope.

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