December 15, 2021
The private car — an object of freedom, opportunity, and equality. Well, that’s at least how it’s been sold to the world since the mass production of cars began back in the early 20th century. And to some extent, it’s true. Turn the key in the ignition and drive wherever you want.
But, as with all good things in life, there’s a catch. And, unfortunately, it’s a pretty big one.
Ironically, private cars and their supporting infrastructure have only served to strip us of the freedom and opportunity that they once promised. And the effects on our quality of life, health, and productivity are indisputable (more on those later).
Our cities are now literally at a crossroads. We can bury our heads in the sand and carry on as we are, or we can take steps to reclaim our cities for people. We want you to join us here at Bolt as we give you the tools to do just that.
But first, a quick history lesson…
If you have a private car that you use for a daily commute, or maybe just on weekends, you might be wondering what the fuss is all about. But we have to consider private car ownership as a whole, in the context of city planning and development over the last few decades.
Ever since cars became available to the masses, our cities and their infrastructure have been designed to help them thrive. Roads and cars have been prioritised, dictating how our environments are constructed. Wider roads, quadruple lane highways, multi-story car parks, paved over greenery, you name it — our cities have been built for cars.
The key issue is that this makes us dependent on them too. As we become dependent, we crave more car-centric urban development, and we’re trapped in a virtuous cycle — hence the current status-quo.
Whether it’s on our physical or mental health, the negative impact of private cars is clear. According to World Health Organisation (WHO) figures, approximately 1.3 million people die each year as a result of road traffic crashes.
A further 20–50 million people suffer non-fatal injuries which may result in disability. And, alarmingly, road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death in children and young adults aged 5–29 years.
We also need to factor in the health consequences that aren’t as visible to the human eye. Commuting by car — complete with bad weather, traffic jams, and accidents — contributes to stress levels.
Each added travel minute correlates with an increase in health problems. Several studies have shown that long-distance commuters suffer from psychosomatic disorders at a much higher rate than people with shorter work commutes.
Physical symptoms range from headaches and backache to digestive problems and high blood pressure. Mental issues include sleep disturbance, fatigue, and general concentration problems.
Whichever way you slice it, a world full of private cars is detrimental to our collective health.
Air pollution from private cars has multiple effects, including global warming, health problems, and building decay — all of which society has been willing to tolerate at the expense of getting around independently.
But the effects don’t stop there. Cars and their related infrastructure are major contributors to noise and visual pollution.
That ugly concrete jungle of a car park you see from your office window? The neverending cacophony of car horns and revving you hear from your apartment? Again, we’ve just learnt to accept that it’s part of life.
Here’s a little experiment, the next time you walk through your city, notice how many car parks, junctions, and widened roads there are. Just think how different our cities could be if even some of these were reused for other purposes.
Remember, our car-centric infrastructure has come at the expense of everything else — affordable housing, green parks, schools, and dedicated lanes for e-vehicles. As such, we’re living at a sub-standard level, without even realising it.
Each time you have to take a convoluted walking route filled with traffic lights, narrow pavements and sickening exhaust fumes, remember that it’s a result of putting car traffic flow before people.
Our car-centric cities are ruining how we (the people) interact with each other — and thus, our happiness and general wellbeing.
With our current infrastructure, spontaneity has been lost, as we’re forced to plan nearly all social engagements or events ahead of time. This infrastructure acts as a barrier that separates us from our neighbours and our communities.
And it’s when we erect barriers that we as a human race have the potential to become more defensive, selfish and lonely. What’s certain is that the current status quo doesn’t promote togetherness.
Now that we’ve established that private car ownership really isn’t the best for ourselves, our communities and our planet, the question is — where do we go from here?
Must we live in an outdated framework that does nothing to optimise our quality of life, or can we make a change?
At Bolt, we believe that it’s time to give our cities back to the people. Without bold change, we’ll simply carry on with the status quo — letting our health, economies, cities and environment take a back seat.
Of course, change can be hard. It’s easy to take the path of least resistance — it’s comfortable. But we want to be on the right side of history and we’d love for you to join us.
We appreciate that private car ownership will only decrease if there are affordable and accessible alternatives.
Our mission at Bolt is to make urban mobility more affordable, safe and sustainable. Through ride-hailing, car-sharing, and shared light e-vehicles (scooters and e-bikes), we’re empowering people to ditch their cars in favour of on-demand transport.
Let’s take a glimpse into what a city of the future might look like with fewer private cars around…
Morning alarm, coffee, and it’s time to leave your apartment for work. So far, so normal, right?
You’re running a little late for your train, so you decide to grab a scooter from the scooter charging dock just around the corner. You open the Bolt app, reserve the scooter and hop on.
As you scoot the 2 KMs to the train station, you notice how green everything looks (ever since those wide roads were reclaimed for greenery and outdoor seating areas). In fact, one road has been pedestrianised and now boasts independent shops and a community centre. You also realise that there’s more space for scooters and pedestrians on these wider pavements.
As you get on the train, you spot a few friends and have a catch-up — with everyone ditching their private cars, everything feels more sociable, and you’re having more interaction with people. But anyway, you’re feeling sleepy, so you put on your headphones and stare out of the window. Wow, look at that view!
This train line used to run alongside a multi-lane road, but ever since private cars began to disappear, these huge roads have been replaced by parks, scooter and bike paths, and new affordable housing. And those shopping malls you used to see as you approached your office now have trees outside instead of car parking places.
The walk from the train station to your office is so much faster than it used to be. Previously, you had to make a bit of a loop to avoid two huge traffic junctions, and there were always those long waits at red lights as private cars sped past you. But, not anymore!
With the reallocation of space, walking has been prioritised in our cities. It’s noticeable with so many people getting their recommended daily step count done. No more breathing in exhaust fumes or dealing with car owner road rage — you get to the office feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day.
Outside your office, that huge, ugly car park has gone. And while many arrive by foot or bike, some colleagues get a Bolt ride straight to the office door. The car drops them off and moves away immediately to its next passenger, without the need to park.
With fewer private cars, there’s a real sense that you and your fellow citizens have your city back, finally!
Life is good.
Yes, the above scenario might feel like a bit of a utopia. And, yes, there will be many hurdles to overcome to get there, but we feel it’s worth it to improve our collective quality of life.
With one tap of a button, you can download the Bolt app, start to reverse the status quo and join us in a new world of on-demand mobility.
Are you up for it?
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