Car sharing is gaining momentum in the UK. Indeed its growing popularity has even prompted the BBC to turn the topic into a sitcom. And with comic genius Peter Kay behind the driving wheel there is sure to be plenty of mileage for laughs.
For some though the joke falls flat as campaigners push for wider use of car sharing or HOV (High Occupancy vehicle) lanes.
Known by other names – you may recognise terms such as car pooling, ride-sharing and even for those francophiles amongst you, co-voiturage. Defined, simply, as the sharing of car journeys so that more than one person travels in a car, it aims to reduce congestion on the roads. With something so compelling you would think everyone would be doing it, yet the concept is relatively new to the UK. Meanwhile drivers in the US have been benefitting from the use of car pool lanes since the 1960's.
Worldwide popularity of car sharing has crept up over the years. There are an estimated 1.7 million car-sharing participants in 27 countries, according to the Transportation Sustainability Research Centre at U.C. Berkley. While that may sound impressive, given that there are over 1 billion cars on the road today, it represents a tiny proportion of the total worldwide car population. Based on those figures, campaigners may have a point.
There are currently less than 10 car sharing lanes in the UK. Including 3 in Leeds, 2 in Bristol and 1 each in Birmingham and Bradford, there is scope for expansion.
Of course while these lanes - limited as they are – can help facilitate improved journey times, drivers can adopt a more informal approach and simply make their own arrangements with work colleagues. This is certainly the easiest way and the benefits make it very attractive. Saving money through reduced fuel consumption and wear and tear on your car is worth considering. And if enough drivers got on board the reduced traffic on the roads could radically shorten journey times.
Not only does car sharing make good sense it makes for good business too. Companies have sprung up all over the country offering a network that connects drivers and passengers with the aim of reducing costs and increasing environmental responsibility.
So next time you are stuck in that long queue of traffic on the way to work and see a car with 2 or more people ask yourself the question - “is this a car pool and could it possibly work for me?"
By Tracey McBain