Educate Singaporeans on downsides of owning a car

Customers chatting with sales personnel at the Performance Motors showroom on Sept 9, 2013.
Customers chatting with sales personnel at the Performance Motors showroom on Sept 9, 2013.PHOTO: ST FILE

Consumer culture has made us believe that we "need" cars ("Can S'pore go car-lite?"; April 18).

Owning a car is frequently perceived to be a symbol of position, wealth and achievement. It is also a representation of freedom and a carefree life.

Therefore, making it harder, more expensive and more inconvenient to own a car may have an unintended consequence of making it a more sought-after status symbol.

A car-lite culture will work only if we treat the root of the demand for cars, and not just the symptoms.

Our people must be properly educated about the upsides of not owning a car and the downsides of owning one.

Rather than offering freedom, owning a car can increase financial expenses and debts, limit our life choices, affect our health and reduce our connection to the people around us.

Owning and maintaining a car have become increasingly more expensive, and the trend will most likely continue in the future. The savings from not owning a car can be used to improve our quality of life and overall well-being.

Car owners are more likely to drive to their destinations, even if they are nearby, instead of walking or cycling to these places.

It is no wonder that we have experienced an increase in obesity, diabetes, hypertension and other health risks that are related to living a more sedentary lifestyle.

Driving a car and living a hurried life may also contribute to a lack of rootedness and less connection with people, including neighbours and the community.

In the bigger picture, a car-lite culture will reduce the loss of lives from automobile accidents.

It will free up spaces to build a more beautiful, people-friendly and lovable country that will cater to and enhance different livelihoods and lifestyles.

It will also reduce air and noise pollution and contribute to a greener and more sustainable environment.

The quest to build a car-lite culture can happen only when owning a car becomes an un-Singaporean dream.

Such a culture can only be as strong as the people's desire for the values, benefits and outcomes of not owning a car.

Patrick Liew Siow Gian (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2016, with the headline 'Educate S'poreans on downsides of owning a car'. Print Edition | Subscribe