We won't fix driving anytime soon

I recently hung up my EV Association chair hat. But that doesn't mean I won't stop fighting the good fight. When a vehicle persists on the road, it must be electric, quiet and interact with it's surroundings (namely pedestrians and cyclists) in a more cohesive way. That means being slower, utilitarian and not polluting the place so people can enjoy the streets and roads.

I was cycling to work on my electric bike. It's about a 4km journey door-to-door, which takes about 15-20mins. Longer if I decide to stop for a coffee and walk a bit, which is relatively often as the weather picks up. Something, incidentally, absolutely impossible when driving. Which is why I always laugh when "business lobbyists" complain about cycle lanes. My local butcher, store, barbers and coffee shop all do good business from folks walking and cycling. Not driving by.

I digress.

A brainfart entered my mind as I was cycling. One day, and that day is soon, all of the vehicles I was cycling past will be electric. The EU will mandate a ban on fossil vehicle sales from 2035. Even if the date slips, which I suspect it will, the general public and fleets won't bother buying into a technology with planned obsolescence baked into it's lifecycle. We'll see the rapid transition to EVs quickly over the next 10 years.

But that's not the brainfart. The brainfart was that those cars I zipped by will still be there. The traffic won't go away. In a decade we will transition the majority of personal & public transport to electric, and ideally generate far more of that electricity from non-fossil sources (wind energy being predominant in Ireland, but with solar coming up millhouse domestically). But the culture of cities, particularly ones like Dublin, will take longer.

Us humans have been driving, and been sold driving as an ideal way to do things, for about 100 years. 100 years allows you to edge in changes and move the dial a bit, like deploying new tech (radio, electric windows, electric motors, batteries, etc.). But it doesn't fundamentally change the culture of door-to-door transport. We need a cultural shift. We could do a Parisian shock-and-awe and just dump lots of cycle lanes in, which does work. But Paris is still a pain in the ass to get around because of traffic.

The EU needs to build a cross-bloc plan with assets, materials, proofs, plans and investment to change the culture of the average European. Get the car out of the way, get it out of our minds. Change what it means to move around your city. Promote the shit out of the "15 minute city" concept which, in a city like Dublin, is so unbelievably attainable with even minor tweaks.

I feel we missed a huge opportunity during Covid to get the infrastructure and communications in front of people, who were deeply captive given the situation. But instead we blew it, and now we're in a recession which is likely to downplay the investment needs.

But my brainfart is an important one. Sure, we can change the cars. Sure, we can make bikes cheaper and more convenient (thanks to electric motors), but until we change the culture, it'll still be cycling weirdos next to a litany of cars parked on our roads trying to get to work.