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Trimming the Transport Budget

Mate, I wish I had a little more cash in the bank!  To help this happen, you could get yourself a higher paid job but reality says your current job is pretty good, anyway.  What are some things we can do when we feel like saving a little more money when it comes to getting from A to B?  Once you’ve made the switch to a hybrid car or to an economy model, is there anything else you can do to reduce your fuel bill – and your carbon footprint?

On sunny days, why not bike instead of taking the car?  If your work premises are under a half-an-hour bike ride away (or about 5 kms), then this is a great way to keep yourself fit.  Using your car less and biking more is going to be good for keeping your body in shape while popping aside more cash in the bank for that holiday away.  Of course, if you have to take half a dozen children and/or lots of gear or a trailer, or if it’s pouring with rain, then you’re probably going to stick with your good old car. But if you can take a break from behind the wheel, why not? Shorter distances can be walked.

I love a ride on the pushbike.  The wind in the hair, the sun on the back and the blood pumping through the body just feels great.  Think about your route to work.  Is it a ride that involves a lot of stop start traffic in a built up area?  If it does, then try an alternative route because the air pollution is not so good for your respiratory system.  Traces of carcinogenic molecules are much higher where car exhaust fumes are belching out carbon monoxide, BTEX, particulate matter etc… in greater quantity (and you’re not going to escape them by taking your car – car drivers breathe in even more than cyclists do, unless you’ve got the windows shut and the air-con on).  Obviously, if you can ride your pushbike to work on a route that is through parks and open spaces, then you’re onto a win-win situation.  You’ll be sucking in great lots of clean green air and you won’t have to look for those as-scarce-as-hen’s-teeth car parking spaces.

What about the bus or train? Does your public transport system provide a superior alternative to your thirsty Corolla or Holden or whatever?  If you can find a route that takes you within half a kilometre of your work, why not use public transport and walk the remainder?  You’ll get to stretch your legs before arriving at your office.  Buses are usually comfortable enough in Australia, while the train is available in a number of main centres.  However, if you’re doing the weekly groceries, the bus might not be a goer – it’s a bit hard to carry all those shopping bags, which is what car boots are for (hint: doing the groceries weekly or even fortnightly rather than less frequently saves you petrol money and also grocery money – it’s a fact).

Of course, a number of you will be smirking as you read this because your office is at home.  Now that’s a pretty cool scenario. Roll out of bed in the morning and into your office chair. Still, there are ways, I’m sure, that you could reduce the level of car trips if you needed to save a few extra dollars on the side.  There is nothing like a walk or bike ride to your local Post Office or grocery store. A trip to the library could be done via bus or train, and the trip to the gym could be done via public transport (or skip the gym altogether and just go for a walk or run).

Still not convinced that you can give up the car?  Then consider starting a carpool with other people at your work.  Single-occupant vehicles (i.e. one person in one car) are frowned on by town planners, environmentalists and traffic engineers, so if you can share the ride with someone else, you get to save on fuel (you take turns at driving) and you can feel a bit better about how you’re helping to reduce congestion and pollution – and you also get to check out what different cars are like.  If you’re setting up a carpool, think carefully about who’s in your pool – it’s not going to work if one person’s got a massive MPV while someone else has a little hatchback.  But that’s another story.

Of course, if you love cars then you are going to want to drive yourself everywhere.  But please don’t be one of those prats who takes the car to the letterbox to pick up the mail.  If you are over seventy, I might let you off the hook, however. Even if you don’t become a regular cyclist, it’s probably no bad thing if all drivers have a go at a bike commute at least once just so they can see what it’s like and become more considerate drivers.