Car companies spend billions of pounds a year making their products more efficient, but there's one simple trick that does more than all those bells and whistles put together: share!
The road's full of cars making really similar journeys, often with just one or two people in each vehicle. By helping people fill those empty seats, liftsharing cuts pollution and congestion while getting everyone to get where they need to be.
This week (1-5 October) is liftshare week, and it's the perfect time to give it a try. There's even a special 10:10 scheme that plugs into the 335,000-strong national network, so you're bound to find someone going your way. We spoke to Cecilia from liftshare to find out how it all works...
If you had 30 seconds, how would you convince someone to start liftsharing?
It's a win-win situation: you can help the planet by reducing pollution and congestion, whilst at the same time saving yourself time and money. Sharing a journey is also safer than driving alone, and can be much more sociable and fun; many people who share lifts become good friends, socialising outside travelling to work.
Tell me about the practicalities. What actually happens when you arrange a liftshare for the first time?
Finding a lift is simple: just register your journey and state whether are offering a lift, need a lift, or can take turns with the driving. The system will then show, on a map, who else is going your way. When you find a suitable match, you can send a ‘share request’ or contact them on their phone if they’ve chosen to give their number. Once you’ve agreed to give sharing a try, you can choose where and when to meet, and whether to share all or part of your journey.
Liftshare is a national network, but lots of companies and organisations (10:10 included) have their own mini-schemes. How do these work?
Liftshare provides schemes for organisations and communities which want to encourage their members, staff, students or residents to share cars. People in these groups can also access the wider liftshare.com network if they haven’t found a sharer through their own group. Liftshare.com provides these organisations with ongoing support to promote their schemes, including unique and extensive monitoring pages, a team dedicated to helping them make their schemes a success, publicity support, user feedback sessions and regular newsletters, calls and emails.
Many people who share lifts become good friends, socialising outside travelling to work.
What's been your best experience of liftsharing?
The money-saving aspect does have a big impact – I save over £1,100 a year. But over time I’ve found the social side very important; I’ve got to know my car-sharers well and built up real friendships with them. And if I ever have to drive alone, I feel really self-concious now! It just feels so wasteful to go anywhere with four empty seats in my car.
Are there any practical issues that prospective liftsharers should be aware of? One 10:10er on Facebook was wondering if it affects your insurance, for example.
The Association of British Insurers has made it clear that lift-sharing won’t affect insurance unless profit is made by the driver. Drivers who still feel unsure can always check with their individual insurance companies. Other than that, there are no real practical issues. We advise people to meet in a public place when sharing for the first time, and to provide each other with proof of their identity. And remember to split the cost of the journey if you’re not just taking turns driving! It’s easy to work out how much to contribute without any awkwardness, as we provide a savings calculator.
These days there are lots of different options for people who want to go beyond the traditional one-car-per-person approach to travel. What sort of person is liftshare best suited to?
Car-sharers come from all walks of life and it’s suited to a huge number of people, for a variety of reasons. About 95% of our members say that saving money is one of their main reasons for sharing, 75% say that the environment is a big reason, and 43% say a main motivator is the companionship. Others value the reduction in stress and the increased safety.
An important thing to bear in mind is that you don't need your own car to be a car-sharer: many people are looking for a lift, and most drivers are happy to provide one in exchange for a contribution to the fuel costs and some friendly company.
What's the most imaginative shared journey you've ever heard about?
We hear about a lot of unusual ways to take advantage of sharing the journey. One that springs to mind is a doctor in Oxford called Andy. He told us that - as he lift-shares with two other doctors - they had started a 'car commute seminar series' where they revise a new topic each journey in order to keep up their medical knowledge. He called it a "very useful way to fill 45 mins which would otherwise be wasted". I loved the initiative and dedication. It's great to think that their patients are all benefiting from the doctors car-sharing too!
Which three people, living or dead, would you love to share a lift with?
The comedian Mark Watson (who is a fan of car-sharing incidentally!), Kate Adie and Bruce Springsteen - you'd want the journey to last for hours if you were sharing with those three...