Honk if you hate peak hour traffic!

Posted by Pam French on Wed 14 October 2015

The unique frustration of driving five kilometres an hour in a vehicle that can do over a hundred is something most of us have experienced. But beyond the daily annoyance of the traffic jam, driving presents a triple whammy against our environment, our health, and our back pocket – which should make us all think thrice. Is there a better way?

That’s why our Green Action of the Month for October is all about reducing your reliance on the motor vehicle. That doesn’t mean giving up your car altogether. It simply means freeing yourself from car dependence by changing your routine and trying alternative ways of getting about.

To help you get started, here are three small actions you can take right now.
Get active
Sitting is the new smoking. Behind tobacco, physical inactivity is the second greatest contributor to Australia’s cancer burden.[1] Plus it’s not great for your waist line. A 2004 study in the United States found that your risk of obesity increases by six per cent for each extra hour you spend in a car each day.[2] So if you walk or cycle part of the way to work you’ll probably feel better, lose weight and live longer!

Action 1: Start tomorrow by taking part in national Ride2Work Day. Register here. And if you're not a regular rider, then the Bicycle Network has some great tips and resources to help you plan your routehere.
Help the environment
Aside from the direct impact of greenhouse gas emissions, cars also have an indirect impact on our environment. David Owen, author of the book The Conundrum, calls cars ‘consumption amplifiers’ because they encourage urban sprawl. If, instead of designing our cities to accommodate motor vehicles, we shifted our focus on to pedestrians and cyclists, we’d have more efficient housing, we’d have shops within walking distance, and we’d exercise more.

Action 2: Practise low-impact transport by pledging to only use your car for trips over three kilometres.
Save money
According to NRMA figures, even the least expensive car to run in Australia, the Mitsubishi Mirage, has operating costs of close to \$5000 a year. If you earn \$35 an hour, each year you’re working 18 and a half days just to pay for your mode of transportation. And that’s as cheap as it gets – many popular makes of car are twice as expensive to run.

Action 3: Start tracking the costs of your car with a logbook or app.
Remember, as with most behaviour change, it’s important to start with something challenging but achievable. Publicly share your pledge with friends and family, and if you’re the social media type, how about sharing your experience with us on Twitter or Facebook.

And last but not least, make sure you reward yourself for each success. Good luck!
the team from Environment Victoria
[1] http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/health-pubhlth-strateg-active-evidence.htm
[2] Frank L.D., Andresen M.A., Schmid T.L., 2004 Obesity relationships with community design, physical activity, and time spent in cars, American Journal of Preventative Medicine, Vol. 2, p. 87 – 96