Cars vs reliable transport

Riding into Leicester today reminded me of the lie we have been told by the car industry. They have sold modern cars as reliable transport, but this is of course not true.

Cars do not breakdown as often as they used to (yet how many people still belong to the AA or RAC for their breakdown cover).

But this does not define reliable transport.

For me reliable transport means being sure of getting to your destination when you need to get there. Reliable transport means that I should be sure that if I leave at X I will arrive by Y.

This means far more than “your can’t won’t breakdown”. For a start it means that there is resilience built in. Your journey time will be reliable.

If you live in or around a city like Leicester there is very little consistency to journeys by car. Two key factors that I have mentioned many times before are traffic congestion and parking.

However, today I was reminded of another factor that makes travelling by car unreliable. Call it environmental. Today a water main burst just south of Thurmaston on the A607, Melton Road. Actually I think maybe there were multiple problems.

Anyway when I cycled past going into Leicester their was chaos for cars in both directions. When I returned a couple of hours later there was still chaos going out of the city.

Journey times were unpredictable by car (and these of course also affect buses). At the same time due to the weather there were numerous delays on the trains.

On the other hand. Some forms of transport are far more reliable. Cycling is one of them. The flood had not covered the cycle path more than a couple of centimetres. If it had I could have taken a number of alternative routes that would not have added more than a couple of minutes at maximum to my journey (I know because I use them when I fancy a change).

I suggest that a proper utility bike is more reliable than a car in terms of breakdowns. It is also far far more reliable in journey terms as it is affected so little by external factors (traffic, parking, road works, burst water mains etc).

So my journeys were completely unaffected by the water main giving me time to look at the stressed, anxious and late faces in the cars I overtook.

We need to challenge the myth of reliable cars. They do not give us reliable transport.

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