Tuesday, 26 June 2012. The Green Piece Column.
Car sharing or ride sharing as it is known in the US, has been a rising phenomenon in the UK (and elsewhere for that matter) over the last decade or so, driven by both shifts in attitudes towards transport and rising internet use.
Like car clubs, car shares are often organised through a website. National schemes run by the likes of liftshare.com, Isanyonegoingto.com and BlaBlaCar.com, and are complemented by regional networks and private networks, all of which have helped to encourage people to start sharing their journeys.
Of course, it is not just the availability of such internet networks which have driven increasing interest in sharing car journeys, but rather that these websites are a response to growing unrest about the price of fuel, the growing frustration with congested roads and a desire to reduce environmental impacts.
We’ve already explored car clubs (see story) and how they are starting to change attitudes towards motoring, but now it is the turn of car sharing and the more subtle way in which it is encouraging to give up the single-occupancy way of life.
Sharing more than just a car
Last Wednesday (June 20, 2012) was National Sharing Day and what better way to get into the sharing spirit than to share a journey to work or on a cross-country journey to another city.
There are all kinds of benefits to car sharing; according to Liftshare.com the average user who car shares their daily commute save £987 per annum and saves about a tonne in CO2 emissions. If that’s not enough, then there is also proof that such an arrangement can be healthy for your social life-maybe even your love life. Here Carpooling.com helps us out here; claiming that its service has been responsible for at least ten marriages since its service launched in 2000.
Of course, car sharing as arranged through the internet can often mean that at first, sharers can be, well, strangers. And as such it isn’t always immediately harmonious in the world of sharing. Arguments are most commonly around the issue of music choice, research has shown, but for most parts the journeys tend to be harmonious, with thousands of new friendships struck, or so those who run such services would have us believe.
With petrol now costing on average of 132 pence per litre (according to PetrolPrices.com) and signs that the fuel prices will rise this summer as a 3p per litre increase in duty comes into effect this August, there is an ever-growing case for car sharing.
Already we are seeing phenomenal growth in such services. BlaBlaCar.com recently reported that for the first time ever its service had over one million seats available for sharers, and had witnessed a growth in its capacity of 135 per cent per year since 2009.
Now even the United Nations is getting involved in trying to encourage more of us to car share as part of its recent Green Up campaign (pictured) launched to coincide with the Rio+20 conference (see story). While Rio+20 may have left many feeling underwhelmed by the disappointing and vague set of commitments published under “The Future We Want” document, there is something that we all can do to help take control of a more sustainable future; commit to reducing our transport-related emissions.
Instead of blaming world leaders and their governments for a lack of commitment to creating a greener future, we can all make a difference.
That could be something as simple as walking or cycling journeys under two miles, car sharing the commute to work, joining a car club or ditching the second car in favour of public transport.
How it works
If you are thinking of signing to a car sharing network, because you want to hitch a lift with someone or because you have a car of your own but would like to reduce the cost of your travel, then you’ll want to know just what’s involved in an website-arranged car share.
Although the exact process varies according to the service you use, there is loads of helpful advise on the CarPlus.org website.
Guide to car sharing:
- Go to chosen website or use a mobile app. You can find details of suitable networks on the CarPlus website, the national charity for car clubs and car sharing (www.carplus.org.uk/car-sharing/car-sharing-contacts/). If you have a car journey you intend to make in your car and wish someone to share with you, then simply fill in the details of the journey you intend to make. Both passengers and drivers are required to fill in some basic details about themselves in order to access the details of potential matches.
- The passenger is expected to share the cost of fuel for the journey. Drivers should not expect to make a profit from carsharing, merely share the expense. Making a profit from a car share can invalidate a driver’s insurance, as it means you are operating like a mini cab service. Carpooling.co.uk suggests that a single passengers should contribute around £7 to £9 per 100 miles, but it is something for the driver and passenger to negotiate. The driver should inform the passenger of the cost of the entire journey beforehand.
- Passengers can search the website for suitable liftshares. Because this process can take time, it is suggested you give yourself at least 2-3 days to find a suitable match. Potential passengers will contact drivers via their chosen method such as via telephone or email to make final agreements. Once a suitable match is made, it may become possible to make long-term regular arrangements such as a daily share of the work commute. Other journeys may be more one-off, such as a trip abroad. If you are travelling out of or in to the UK, drivers should get their passengers to show them a valid passport (or EU Travel Card), before you start the journey.
- Agree a pick-up and drop-off points. Drivers may be willing to stop part way on their journey, if a passenger does not want to travel the full distance. Of course, this is down to the individual and subject to negotiation. Drivers may specify on the website that they are willing to stop part way by mentioning the route is “via” somewhere else, i.e. London to Edinburgh via Birmingham and Newcastle.
- Enjoy the savings! If a journey is going to cost you £60 in petrol, take a couple of passengers with you and that journey cost could be spilt three ways and cost just £20 instead!
Now you have the basics, why not give it a go? I’m planning a journey from Stockport to Leek soon, and although I’ve never tried carsharing for myself, I’m off to check it out. Will keep you posted on my experiences as I join the carsharing craze too.
Faye has been writing about cars and environmental issues since 2007. A suspected eco-warrior working on the corporate inside, Faye mainly likes the weird, quirky vehicles that show a distinct environmental advantage. Her ideal car has enough room to fit a bale of hay in the boot. When not working, she likes nothing better than to head out on her bicycle and explore the countryside.
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