“You won’t manage in this city without a car,” said nobody in London ever. Everyone understands why many choose to go without - but I happen to be in Geneva when this declaration is made.
I come here once a month for my consultancy work with the UN and was rather under the impression the famously reliable Swiss transport would get me around nicely. It doesn’t take many trips to realise that everywhere worth visiting in the outskirts of the city – both towards France or into Switzerland – is time-consuming, confusing, costly, and in almost every instance, the trains or buses stop several kilometres away from where you actually want to be.
Now, when I land, my first port of call is the hire car centre. Gliding down the jam-free motorways, glancing with adoration at the efficiently managed roadworks as I head for the mountain range where my ski pass, a perfectly melted raclette and glass of Gialdi Trentasei awaits. I feel like the proverbial King.
However, this does not happen when I’m back home in the UK. I live in Brighton and drive to London when work calls, and now I wonder why...
I take my dilemma to the only place I can be certain I’ll be told I’m wrong – social media. Here are six of the more convincing arguments that lead to me clutch my car keys.
Ethel and Ralph organise a supper club around two or three times a month. They get a dozen people around the table each time, it’s normal for a few of them to be new faces.
Says Ethel: “Our supper clubs aren’t like a weekend dinner party. We all have work the next day, so we can’t have people turning up late because the trains are delayed - and we don’t want people having to dash off too early to avoid potential public transport hiccups. It’s nice for our guests to be able to go home, freshen up, then pop round to someone’s house for dinner, catch-up with friends or meet new people, then be back home at a decent time. We shouldn’t be writing off a convivial Tuesday night because of stress about cancelled trains or the cost of a cab ride across town. Having a car makes enjoying a last-minute jaunt and meeting new people easy - we should all do it more!”
As a freelancer, Carl can choose his hours, and often works through the night. His best inspirations come from unplanned moonlit drives.
Says Carl: “People have this idea that the city is always congested, but there are plenty of areas where you can really enjoy driving after dark. When I drive across Chelsea Bridge, playing Pink Floyd as Battersea Power Station comes into view - I feel energised by the scale of the metropolis. As the glittering cityscape glides past my window, I can enjoy being alone with my thoughts and freedom of the sleeping city.
As a PR officer, Anjana gets invited to many chic soirees, often out of town. To rely on someone else to drive her back means being stuck.
Says Anjana: “In my perfect world, I’d have a chauffeur to drive me around. He’d be handsome and ready to take me away from a tedious event at the click of a finger. Back in the real world, the few times I’ve been somewhere without my car, I’ve had to stand around making excruciating small talk while my designated driver decided when to leave. When you go places with a lot of people, whether that’s on a day trip or to the gym, if you’re the one with the car keys – everyone goes when you say it’s time to go. Nutshell: having a car gives you a sense of independence.”
Luis is an old raver who still parties like it’s 1989. He had one car then, now a successful event organiser, he has several.
Says Luis: “Remember all those raves we went up and down the country following convoys? We wouldn’t have gone far on a Number 10 bus, now would we? Imagine I ring you up in the summer and say I’ve got a spare ticket to a festival, for today. Would you get on a train? Make me wait around while you then try to get on a festie bus from the station? What I’d want you to say is, “yeah man, I’ll jump in the car now”. Having a car means you have the freedom to go, “okay, I can do that”, none of this checking timetables and booking tickets nonsense. Get in, turn the ignition on, you’re there where you want to be.”
Aaron and Maiya are keen cyclists who decided to buy their first car after getting married last year. They get a fair amount of grief from the biking community, and have decided to stop apologising for it.
Aaron and Maiya say: “Most car owners we know – especially in the city – don’t use theirs all the time, but only for those essential journeys. You can’t do your big weekly shopping at the supermarket and expect to bike it back home, can you? The ironic thing is, we had a friend who gave us a hard time for being eco-traitors, but then when she moved house and needed to move some furniture, guess who she called...?”
Main image credit: Land Rover