In 2021, London City Hall commissioned Imperial College London to conduct a study on air pollution in the capital. They found that 3,600 to 4,100 deaths were estimated to be attributable to air pollution in 2019.
Given that 68% of the world population are estimated to be living in cities by 2050, that number of deaths in cities will only increase, unless action is taken to reduce air pollution.
“The issue is clear, and the solution, even clearer – we need to seriously reduce pollution by reducing our reliance on cars.“
NO2 (Nitrogen Oxide) one of these dangerous pollutants, comes from high volumes of traffic and congestion. It can cause organ and neurodevelopment issues in pregnant women, new onset asthma in children, as well as lung function decline in older adults. Essentially, this pollution hits the most vulnerable first – the young and elderly. So, the issue is clear, and the solution, even clearer – we need to seriously reduce pollution by reducing our reliance on cars.
Ridesharing services are offering a solution. Working to complement public transport, they give people access to a personal vehicle when they really need one, for instance, if they are having to move heavy objects from one place to another, or doing a big shopping trip, or wanting to go somewhere with friends and that somewhere is not yet covered by public transport. Then, besides this, people can do the majority of their travel by public transport – reducing congestion in city and town centres and, in doing so, the amount of pollution.
Zipcar is one of these ridesharing services. Founded in the US back in 2000, it has rapidly been shaping how people get around in cities.
Their UK manager, James Taylor says that their vision is ‘of cities where car sharers outnumber car owners.’
So, how does it work?
Using their app, you can book a car immediately, or in advance, and then pick up from a designated parking point. Paying your one-time application fee, annual fee, and then a reservation charge, you can then drive with fuel, parking and insurance and maintenance costs all covered.
Zipcar offers the chance to pick up vehicles for shorter, more linear journeys (i.e. going from A to B and then parking and leaving the car), or roundtrips (where you can pick up your car, drive it for however long you need, and then park it back where you got it from afterwards). This allows all the flexibility of having a car, without actually having to own it. Short trips and long trips are covered with this model.
Where can you get them?
So far in the UK, Zipcar has services for car hire in London, Oxford, Bristol, and Cambridge, but this will likely expand over time as demand increases.
As well as Zipcar, there are many other companies that offer a similar service of car sharing. Many of these services are also increasingly focusing on electrifying their vehicle fleets – meaning that pollution can be cut down even more.
So, do you really need a car?
Chances are, after reading this, you’ll still say yes. Maybe you live in a rural area where public transport is appalling. Maybe (just maybe) you don’t happen to live in a city that offers idyllic ride-sharing services. Even if you do, maybe you’ve looked at the prices and it feels like a big commitment.
It is also quite likely that you have a strong attachment to your car as well – after all, you’ve had that Nisan Micra for eight years now, it has served you well (ish). Why would you get rid of it?
One report suggests that by 2026 the ridesharing market will be worth $937 billion.
Regardless, its worth keeping in mind that forecasters are predicting massive growth in the ridesharing market, one report suggesting by 2026 it will be worth $937 billion – that is an increase of over 500% from 2021.
Ride sharing, then, is the future of cars – gone will be the days of us all owning one (or two) and keeping them on our driveways. The mass car ownership in the world will soon be looked back on as vicious and recklessly unsustainable. We will soon examine the present day and simply ask why? Why would we choose to own and drive so many polluting, killing vehicles?