Azara Blog: Car clubs might be coming to Cambridge

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Date published: 2007/01/16

The Cambridge Evening News says:

A car borrowing club which has echoes of the disastrous green bike scheme is being considered in Cambridge.

The initiative, which is being considered by Cambridgeshire County Council, would provide members with a pool of cars which can be booked and used as and when required.

The idea is to give residents an alternative to owning their own car which will complement public transport, to help reduce congestion, pollution and parking problems in the city.

Although the proposals are still in their early stages, it is hoped the scheme could be piloted in Romsey or King's Hedges. And if the trial goes ahead, residents' parking bays could be commandeered for use by the car club vehicles.

The plans, which are being considered by the council's Cambridge Environment and Traffic Management Area Joint Committee, are reminiscent of the failed green bike scheme which was launched in 1993.
However, Coun Alan Baker, chairman of the environment and traffic management joint committee, said today (Tuesday, 16 January) it would be wrong to draw comparisons between the doomed scheme and the car club, which would be run as a commercial enterprise.

He said: "Cars are very different from bikes in so many ways. This would be a commercial operation and would have to be very carefully managed.

"The green bike scheme was a nice idea at the time but it did not work, and of course bikes are much more vulnerable to theft than cars.

"The car club proposals are quite innovative. I am not aware of any other places where this is practised on the scale being proposed here.

"We all know Cambridge has problems with traffic congestion and this is one of a number of ways of trying to reduce it. On paper, at least, it looks interesting."

It is just plain silly to compare car clubs with the green bike scheme. On this point Baker is correct. But on the substantive points he is mostly wrong. Car clubs might reduce parking problems, since many people share the one car, but it could well increase parking problems, since it ought to just encourage people who currently don't use cars to start using one. And indeed, unless car clubs manage to reduce driving by existing drivers, car clubs will lead to increased pollution and congestion, since more people will be using cars. Well, perhaps the Lib Dem plan is to steal so many parking places from non-car club people that only car club people will be able to have access to a car, and then you make it so inconvenient to get hold of one that drivers just give up. (The Illiberal Democrats who lord over Cambridge would just love to be able to force the peasants to petition them every time they had the nerve to want to get in a car. Only the ruling elite should be allowed to drive.)

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