The surprising benefits of greener travel
The family and I have been on a journey towards to greener travel. About 18 months ago we traded in two old petrol vehicles, for one multi-purpose electric vehicle for my partner’s work (teaching martial arts) and family, alongside more cycling, walking and public transport. As a climate professional, I understand the health, climate, well-being benefits of greener travel but the experience itself added a few welcome surprises.
The joy of slow
I remember bombing up and down the motorway, arriving tired and stressed, but exactly when GoogleMaps predicted. Now that all seems a bit pointless. We drive at 60 mph as it extends the battery range. The car can go about 150 miles on one charge (newer models are around 250 miles), but long journeys are fine. On trips to see family we add at least an hour to the journey to top up, and accept that as there are not yet enough chargers installed it might be longer. We arrive much more relaxed, having had a break for re-charging ourselves and the car, and no stress about arriving at a specific time.
Travel is sociable
My little boy loves buses and trains and loves to share his excitement with everyone who is either fortunate or unfortunate enough to be sitting nearby. Whilst charging the car I have chatted to everyone from YouTube stars to Belgian tourists who all share a passion for reducing their carbon footprint.
If you think of a barrier to active travel, someone has probably invented a solution
We have discovered the myriad of ways you can get a five year old from a to b. Our favourite is something called a ‘tag-along’ – a kind of tandem for kids. We have invested in waterproofs that are actually waterproof, and go out all year round despite my personal dislike of the cold. I have a friend with a serious heart condition who wanted to cycle – so got an electric bike. There is a solution for everything if you look hard enough.
Buses are fun(ish)
I must confess that I still find that buses to be unreliable and rarely go where I need them to. Something our recently elected Green Councillors in Wales will be taking steps to address! We have however stumbled across a couple of routes to local seaside towns that provide a relaxing daytrip without having to worry about parking.
You can drive an EV abroad
We are just back from a no-fly summer holiday, our ‘EV adventure’, camping in France. Charging in France was not great, resulting in a 50 mile detour and us nearly missing our Eurotunnel back to the UK. We did however make it home, and demonstrated that travel abroad in an EV is possible. We will definitely do it again.
Public transport and active travel must be put at the top of the agenda for climate action. Greens have the policies for sustainable, affordable and accessible solutions for all. Talking about ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ solutions to mobility however does nothing to help with inclusion. Truly sustainable solutions embrace and help people find out what works for them – considering accessibility, affordability and the complexity of daily life.
By putting people’s experiences at the heart of the narrative we can help others embrace the benefits of sustainable travel, perhaps with a few welcome surprises along the way.
Helen Westhead is deputy leader of the Wales Green Party
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Image credit: Martin Addison – Creative Commons