A question I get asked a lot is why I don’t drive. This seems like a bit of an odd thing to ask me, as even the most casual acquaintance knows the obvious answer to be “because I’m a drunken psychopath reprobate.” At this point, the person laughs and asks what the real reason is. Then I stab them up good for suggesting that I’m a liar. Well, I did warn them.
But anyway, because the truth hurts (literally), I’ve come up with some more “believable” reasons for why I, as someone who lives in London, do not drive.
1. Public transport is actually pretty good
I’ll admit that I have been known to complain about public transport now and again. But the fact is that if you live in London, you are very fortunate in terms of getting around. As you may already know, I live in Colliers Wood. I’m on the Northern Line. Within half an hour’s walk are Wimbledon, Haydons Road, South Wimbledon, Tooting Broadway, Tooting Bec and Tooting stations. I’m also within walking distance of the Tramlink and there are several buses passing through. There are night and 24-hour buses, and I’m just off the main road, so I am never ever stranded as long as I’m in London (although there are also 24-hour services to Oxford and St Albans, other familiar haunts of mine). Everywhere I need to go on a regular basis, I can get to without a car.
I have an Oyster Travelcard which costs me just over £150 a month. Now, that’s quite a lot, but as I work in Central London it works out cheaper than paying a fare every time I use public transport. And as it’s a work expense, what that means is that everything time I use that other than for work, I’m effectively getting free travel.
If I had a car, I’d have to pay for petrol, maintenance, road tax, parking and the Congestion Charge. That’s before the start-up costs of learning to drive and buying the damn car in the first place. This leads me on to…
3. Even if I did get a car, I’d have to use public transport anyway.
As regular readers will be aware, I like to party. Quite often, when I go out, booze is involved. As a responsible adult (har har), I could not possibly drive after such libation, so I would have to either not take my car out or not drink. Few things are more tiresome than being the one sober individual at a wild party, so I’d have to use public transport anyway.
That’s before we’ve got on to the fact that in Central London, traffic and parking are bastards anyway. Coupled with the congestion charge, it would be a rare occasion when driving into London would actually be easier than taking the Tube. I know an awful lot of people who have cars but commute by public transport anyway. So if I’m going to shell out for the Oyster, might as well save my money on a car I won’t use.
4. Walking is awesome
I love to walk. I walk all over the place. Often with no plan or end goal, just walking around the city, seeing what I can see. I’ll take random and illogical routes. I’ll explore places that are probably best left unexplored. When I set out on my own, I rarely know exactly where I’m going to end up. This is an experience that you can’t replicate in a car. You just don’t have that flexibility, and if you’re going slowly enough to appreciate the backstreets you’ll probably get done for kerb crawling.
And walking is a great way to stay in shape, too. I find exercise boring as all hell, so if I can maintain my shape doing something I love, then so much the better. If I over-indulge one night, well, the next day I’ll take the long route home instead to compensate.
5. Everything is nearby
Even if I didn’t have excellent public transport, Colliers Wood is not badly located for shops. As I mentioned, I’m within walking distance of Wimbledon and Tooting Broadway, which are excellent places to shop. Everything I actually need, I can get from there. What’s more, there is a massive, massive Sainsbury’s and a similarly huge Marks and Spencer about five minutes from me.
“But Tom, you handsome bastard,” I hear you cry, “isn’t it a hassle when you’re doing your weekly shop, having to carry all those bags? I mean, even ten minutes on foot with heavy shopping can be a Herculean task.” Firstly, it’s a bit weird that you all used those exact same words, but secondly I should point out that I’m a bachelor with no need to plan ahead shopping-wise. I don’t really do a “weekly shop” per se. More a “today and possibly tomorrow if there’s anything left over, and oh damn I’ve forgotten something, well, let’s stop at the Tesco petrol station on the way back” shop.
6. Think about the environment!
Actually, I don’t, but the fact that I don’t drive a car does make me a bit more environmentally friendly now you come to mention it. Smug!
I don’t drive because I don’t need to. I appreciate this doesn’t apply to everyone, and that there are perfectly sound reasons for owning a car if you’re not in my circumstances. I also admit that there are circumstances where even I would find a car useful, but these arise so rarely as to not be worth worrying about.
Plus I’ve seen that film Cars, set in a post-apocalyptic world where vehicles have risen up and slaughtered their human masters in a bid to create an automobiles-only society. Let’s not let that come to pass.