Every morning, I glance up and down my (very typical) road, and notice the dozens of parked cars laying idle, presumably as their owners decide that the traffic, cost and lack of parking in London make driving a completely ludicrous proposition for getting to work.
Do you own a car? Does the above scenario describe you? How much money are you throwing away by insuring, taxing and maintaining that thing? Have you considered how much it is depreciating every month? Have you thought about going car free but dare not give up the freedom?
Of course, the Green Party is an enthusiastic proponent of cycling, walking, affordable public transport and other healthy options. We would like to see Ealing Council make good on its promises to make our highways safer for all road users, and will be campaigning hard for a Green voice in Ealing in 2018. (Please join us!)
Yet sometimes only a car journey is practical. We get it. So how could you survive without your car on those occasions when you're stocking up on heavy groceries or braving a trip to flat pack furniture heaven?
Could you take a taxi? Sometimes that's the best option, particularly if you are making a journey poorly served by public transport late at night, perhaps have had a drink, and need a safe way to get home. Increasingly, people use lift sharing or private hire apps on their smartphones (Uber is the best known) for the speed of collection and convenience of cashless payment. However, the number of private hire vehicles on London's roads has increased by a staggering 58% since 2009, contributing significantly to the deadly air pollution and stressful congestion we face every day. Taxis are also often unsuitable for longer journeys, as the cost becomes prohibitive.
There is a little-known alternative to car ownership that is gradually staging a small revolution: the car club.
The concept is simple: you become a member and get issued with a special contactless card that you can tap on the windscreen of any of their cars, drive around for as long as you need, then return it where you found it at the end. You pay by the hour, and that generally covers you for petrol, insurance and everything else you need.
While many cars are available at zero notice to hop in, generally it's safer to book ahead to make sure your nearest car is available when you want it. There are even a few large vans available for really big jobs.
If you live in Ealing, you are never far from such a vehicle. There are dozens parked in convenient locations around the Borough. People who drive 6,000 miles a year or less can often save several hundreds of pounds versus the cost of car ownership. They can even be a good alternative to running a car pool for your business.
As an additional bonus, the car club industry has jointly agreed with TfL that at least 50% of their fleets will be electric by 2025, so it's getting greener. Better still, increasing car club membership will reduce all those abandoned, lonely cars parked along our streets, rusting away and clogging up the highways.
So while we Greens would much rather get on our bikes, car clubs could just be a way of getting us all to kick the habit of car ownership for good.
If you would like to know more, Ealing Council has a useful guide, and Car Plus has a handy map of your nearest cars. A slight variation on the car club theme is the car sharing scheme, where you are basically borrowing a private individual's car rather than hiring from a company. One such scheme is run by EasyCar, although we're not sure how good we feel about the wider group's climate credentials as an airline!
We'd love to hear your stories. Share your car club experiences and tips on our Facebook page.
Please do not consider the above any sort of endorsement by, or association, with the Green Party of England and Wales or any of our members; this article is for educational purposes only.