Monday, August 20, 2007

more cars = less traffic?

I've been a member of car-sharing service, Streetcar in the UK for over a year. It's great. Owning a car in London is really a luxury and the service is so cheap I've been a passionate ambassador for it.

A couple of months ago I noticed that US-based zipcar had also recently started up in London. This immediately got under my skin. Having a single car-share service in a city has a great opportunity to reduce the number of cars on the roads, the number of parking spaces needed etc etc. This benefits a huge number of people - it's a cultural improvement. Indeed, zipcar's homepage reads:

"Imagine a nation with a million fewer cars on the road... we do"

And yet they're putting more cars on the roads!

While I'm all for consumer choice and all against corporate monopolies, I think zipcar's move appears a little irresponsible and inward-looking. What if Flexcar opened there too? And a host of others after that? It would completely negate the purpose of the thought.

This kind of thing highlights how companies' interest in eco-friendly ideas so often seems to be about them and not about the environment at all.

If zipcar thinks genuinely that a second car-share company (I.e. more cars) will still lead to "less cars" then I'd like to see a more honest communication: One that acknowledges the presence of Streetcar; one that shows some numbers and perhaps that proposes a campaign to ensure that the number of cars is reduced (I.e. Encourage potential consumers to sell their existing cars to zipcar).

In other words: It should acknowledge the world beyond its own goals.

Am I being over-sensitive? Does anyone share the view that this "our brand is the centre of everything" approach is misplaced when the proposal concerns the bigger picture?

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