It’s a car’s world…

By Rosa Mas Giralt

Motor cars have become one of the most common private means of transport in today’s world and have transformed our societies, lives and physical landscapes beyond recognition. However, our relationship with these mobility machines transcends the purely practical domain and transforms the way we feel about our im/mobilities and personal spatialities. The success of programmes such as Top Gear (BBC) is based on the complexity of emotions which are embroiled in our relationship with wheels and speed. Similarly, but in a negative way, there are continuous examples of ‘road rage’, accidents and other incidents which remind us of the potentially devastating impacts that automobiles can have on our lives.

The environmental impacts of our petrol consuming four-wheeled ‘friends’ are unsustainable and developing electric, low-carbon and other alternative forms of motor cars has become a pressing matter. Geography, among other social sciences, has a great deal to contribute to the understanding of the human relationship with automobiles, road space, driving practices, etc. For instance, Peter Merriman (2009) provides an in-depth overview of the research that has been conducted on geographies of the spaces and practices of driving, focusing especially on the UK. He shows the important role that this type of research has in providing “sophisticated understandings of the complexities of car use and people’s desire to travel in private, flexible vehicles [so] effective strategies can be developed to tackle increases in private, petrol-car use and increasing CO2 emissions” (2009: 594). We need to follow the road of sustainable motoring if we want to continue enjoying the mobility and independence that motor cars can provide.

Visit Top Gear‘s website (BBC2)

Visit the Green Car Website (UK)

Read Peter Merriman (2009) “Automobility and the geographies of the car”. Geography Compass. 3(2): 586-599.


  1. Private car ownership and use consumes much urban space & seals the land’s surface with impermeable, carbon-intensive materials.
    I wonder whether the notion of ‘sustainable motoring’ without more, that is context on the reallocation of funds to reallocate road space to other road users, is a paradox -is it? The Factor Four team seemed to think so!

  2. Dear Chloe, many thanks for your comment. You are completely right in suggesting that ‘sustainable motoring’ goes far beyond than developing environmentally friendly motor cars. However, I meant to highlight the importance of understanding people’s emotional and practical attachments to cars and the type of mobility their provide. Understanding this complexity would allow the development of initiatives which could have greater impact on transforming the transport landscape and our over-reliance on motor cars.

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