On reluctant car ownership

Two facts about me. One: I’ve never owned a car. Two: I have an eleven week old baby son.

Fact number two might be about to change fact number one, but I wish there was some intermediate option.

I quite like driving on the open road, especially manuals (stick shifts), but I’m not very experienced in good cars and therefore haven’t developed expensive tastes. I also abhor heavy traffic, and would prefer public transport commuting as long as it is working, air-conditioned, and not packed to the gills. (I am aware that this rules out many commutes.) I like walking to the shops and have tended to live places which are close to public transport and grocery shopping. It’s worked pretty well so far and frankly I’d probably prefer to go on like that indefinitely.

But some things that were easy before are a righteous pain in the neck now. We can’t just get a taxi, for example, we have to go to serious effort to get one with a car seat, and even then I’m told they often turn up with the wrong one, or it’s badly fitted. (Some people advise to purchase one and take it with us but… they’re enormous. What the hell do you do with it at the other end?) Trips to visit my parents on public transport used to involve changing modes of transport twice. Now they involve changing modes of transport twice with twice as many bags with a recently woken and cranky baby, who may well remain disrupted for the rest of the day, while simultaneously cringing every time he makes a noise (he cries very loudly), and possibly being outright verbally abused by people for ‘allowing’ him to do so. Not to mention the chance of not getting a seat at all and having to stand with him for an hour, and the total lack of nappy change facilities.

Same thing, although not as lengthy, applies to visiting many of our friends and going on some of our favourite outings.

Rental cars aren’t going to cut it often, since one-way trips in them are so ludicrously expensive and so is keeping them for the middle bit of long trips.

Since I don’t care enough about cars to have a particular desire to own one individual car, I really wish there was a truly cross-transport flexible system in which I could both use public transport and borrow various sizes of car in the car sharing style and in the one pricing system. In an ideal world the fitting systems for baby restraints would also be improved so that they were spring-loaded and snap fastened too.

When the government gets serious about ending or changing car dependence (which I don’t expect to see awfully soon) they should look into this for me.