Carsick – solutions for our car addicted culture, by Lynn Sloman

Car culture is one of the biggest challenges facing our society. Fossil fuel use in cars is a major contributor to climate change, and if we want to come anywhere near our CO2 targets, we will need to fix our driving habits. There’s also the problem of peak oil. Once oil demand starts to outstrip supply, oil prices will begin to rise and driving could soon be prohibitively expensive. Unfortunately, we have structured our whole way of life around cars – to get to work, do the shopping, meet friends, or take children to school. Fifty years of motoring has radically re-ordered our towns and cities around the automobile, and it is hard to do without one even if you want to.

All of this makes Lynn Sloman’s book very important. It begins with a list of reasons to reduce car use, and moves swiftly on to solutions, from encouraging cycling and public transport, to town planning. It’s packed with good ideas and projects that have worked well, gathered through Sloman’s own research and work on various sustainability committees. Those wondering what they can do personally will find some useful tips. Campaigners, or transition towns transport groups, will find a wealth of things to try.

The first observation to make is that much of our car use is simply complacency. Half of car journeys are under two miles, and 80% of them could be done by bike or bus. “Driving has become the normal, habitual, expected means of transport, and other options are not even considered.” Getting people thinking about travel is a good start. We take our cars for granted so much, just asking the question of how you will get somewhere is a step in the right direction.

Information is another crucial factor. Public transport, when considered, is often too easily dismissed. A survey in Darlington got people to estimate journey times and costs, by car and by public transport. People overestimated the public transport journey time by 70%, and underestimated the car journey time by 26%. They also overestimated the ticket fare by 21%, and underestimated the cost of going by car by 58%. In other words, those who don’t use public transport tend to assume that it is slower and more expensive than it is. Correcting those prejudices is one way to get more people out of their cars, and some local councils have done this through advertising campaigns, better access to information, or just giving away free tickets to get people to try the bus.

The most interesting section of the book for me was the chapter on town planning. When a town or city has been planned to accomodate cars first and foremost, a car can easily become a necessity. Out of town supermarkets and retail parks, regional hospitals, housing estates by the ring road, all of these are unsustainable ways to set up a town. Once it’s there, it will be there for decades. Getting councils to think through the planning permissions for these kind of building projects is vital.

Of course, most people like their cars and have no intention of giving them up, climate change or not. Those most attached to their cars should be thinking about this the most however, because peak oil may take the choice out of our hands in the near future. As we discovered in the heavy snowfall in january, our way of life is very vulnerable. If there was a petrol shortage, how would you get to work? If fuel prices tripled, would you still want to drive the children to school? If you’re looking to buy a new house at the moment, consider whether or not you would be able to do your shopping without a car. It would be wise to prepare in advance.

There are dozens of ideas and facts in Car Sick that are worth separate posts. I haven’t mentioned the social effects of car use, which are fascinating. I will follow some more of these up in the future.

Tags: , ,

14 Comments on “Carsick – solutions for our car addicted culture, by Lynn Sloman”

  1. J.H. Crawford October 14, 2009 at 4:10 pm #

    Please see the web site at:

    for further thoughts about a greatly car-reduced way of life.

  2. sean pargeter September 29, 2010 at 8:42 pm #

    Ironic . We are burning fosil fuels which is warming the planet which in turn is melting the polar caps which in turn is making more fosil fuels availble which in turn will create more buring of fosil fuels

  3. Paddy HGV Training May 15, 2011 at 4:07 pm #

    We need to reduce the amount of cars on the road for these environmental reasons or think of an alterative. There is also the amount of fatalities linked with younger drivers.

    The system is simple. Raise the driving age and make those older individuals re test. This will also help with our environment. Furthermore we need to introduce some more ridgid car sharing schemes to reduce the amount of cars on the road and reduce these risks.

  4. CBT Test August 21, 2011 at 9:40 pm #

    There is a trend for bigger and less fuel efficient vehicles but it has to stop. The fact is we are still going to be using cars, but we can make do with smaller vehicles, hybrid vehicles, or even mopeds and scooters.


  1. Cars and community – is it possible to have both? « MAKE WEALTH HISTORY - June 22, 2009

    […] June 22, 2009 Cars and community – is it possible to have both? Posted by Jeremy under lifestyle, transition towns, travel and transport | Tags: cars, hypermobility | Leave a Comment  I’ve written about hypermobility before, but I’ve been thinking about it again after reading Lynn Sloman’s book ‘Car Sick‘. […]

  2. Cars and community – is it possible to have both? « by Jeremy Williams « Treenex - June 24, 2009

    […] I’ve written about hypermobility before, but I’ve been thinking about it again after reading Lynn Sloman’s book ‘Car Sick‘. […]

  3. Get your car dependency scorecard « MAKE WEALTH HISTORY - September 14, 2009

    […] more on our car-addicted culture, see the books Car Sick or Cutting Your Car Use. […]

  4. Books of the year, 2009 « MAKE WEALTH HISTORY - January 5, 2010

    […] are good reads if you’re interested: Local Food: How to Make it Happen in Your Community Carsick: Solutions for a car-addicted culture On Guerilla Gardening The End of Money A Short History of Progress The Book of Rubbish Ideas […]

  5. Putting our car addiction into reverse « MAKE WEALTH HISTORY - March 5, 2010

    […] Car Sick – solutions for our car addicted culture   […]

  6. London’s bike revolution « Make Wealth History - July 26, 2010

    […] from Lyn Sloman’s book Car Sick. Tagged: cycling, london Posted in: travel and transport ← What we learned this week […]

  7. Why ending the ‘war on motorists’ is bad news for drivers « Make Wealth History - January 5, 2011

    […] Carsick: solutions for our car addicted culture, by Lyn Sloman […]

  8. Ten reasons to give up your car « Make Wealth History - February 2, 2011

    […] levels of obesity in Europe at 24% of adults. Half of all our car journeys are for distances less than two miles. Can you spot the connection between these two […]

  9. Is the car of the future a one-seater? | Make Wealth History - March 15, 2014

    […] Book review: Carsick – solutions for a car-addicted culture […]

  10. Three big technologies to reconsider | Make Wealth History - May 18, 2015

    […] Reconsidering car culture now is really difficult, and inevitably political. It’s also very expensive, as many places are almost unliveable without a car. But it’s not an impossible task. Electric cars are the least we can do. More fundamental change will come through designing walkable neighbourhoods, relocalising work and services where we can, and providing attractive and affordable transit systems where we can’t. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: