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DfT magicians conjure a nation of car sharers

The planet will have whatever they're smoking...

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

We are an environmentally conscious nation of car sharers, apparently. Or so the casual browser might conclude from a Department for Transport announcement claiming new research highlights "the popularity of car sharing."

Sadly, predictably, all is not as it seems. According to the announcement a hefty 61 per cent of those surveyed had taken part in some form of car share in the past month. But it kind of depends on what you mean by "car sharing". The less creative thinkers among us, when we think of car sharing, are likely to think of regular arrangements where two or more people share the journey to work in a single vehicle, thus reducing costs, peak hour congestion and pollution.

But for the sprinklers of magic happy dust at the DfT, such utilitarian definitions would appear to produce an insufficiently green result. Search in the raw data for evidence of what ordinary mortals might understand as car sharing and you find instead roads brimming with phalanxes of vehicles occupied by single, planet-wrecking n'er-do-wells. Quick! The happy dust.

According to the DfT, if you've either given a lift to someone, or been given a lift by someone from outside your household, then you have taken part in a car share. And in the month prior to interview, 61 per cent confessed to having struck this single blow for the future of the planet. Phew.

The rest of the report doesn't look half as clever. Only 1 per cent of those surveyed were members of a car share organised at their workplace, and only 6 per cent were passengers in a car every day. Only 8 per cent had given anyone a lift more than ten times in the past month, while 24 per cent hadn't done so at all. And the purpose of these 'car shares'? Leisure trips accounted for 26 per cent, shopping and services 24 per cent, and travelling to work just 14 per cent. Only 8 per cent got a lift because they wanted to ease congestion, and 7 per cent "for environmental reasons."

So actually, a relatively small number of people in the UK vary occasionally cadge a lift to work, formal car sharing is virtually invisible, and it's my car, so go and get the bus you pathetic sponger. Was that sound the sea level rising? ®

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