02 September 2013:
Private motoring will be an important South African transport option for a long time to come, and motorists should take a hands-on approach to protect their rights.
This is the view of the Automobile Association (AA), which has described itself as being “champions for motorists and proud of it!” The AA said that private motoring had been one of the most important stimulants of economic growth in the past one hundred years. “It has enabled people to live and work where they like, and given them almost limitless freedom of movement”. “In 1900, Johannesburg to Durban was a two or three-week adventure. Now it is a comfortable half a day's drive,” the AA added.
The AA also credited private motoring as a key factor in the explosion of public transport in the first decades of the 1900s, saying that people who couldn't afford their own cars looked on in envy at the convenience offered by private motoring. This created a market for new ways of moving newly-urbanised masses. “Mass public transport was certainly driven by the desire for mobility created by the private car,”the AA commented.
The AA said that the task ahead was for South African policymakers to balance the benefits of private motoring with the realities of mass transit. This would require a broad strategy in which the flexibility of private motoring was weighed up against its costs, energy consumption and emissions. Other aspects cited by the AA were the living patterns of South African suburbs where long commutes were accepted as a fact of life, plus the difficulty of persuading motorists to move out of their cars onto mass transit. The current lack of public transport on the scale available in other parts of the world such as Europe and the USA was also a concern for the AA.
“The AA's position is that we are duty-bound to act in the best interests of our members, who are motorists, but we also have to consider the broader transport picture,” the AA commented. “We don't think that there is any conflict between these roles. Britain, for interest, is a good example of where private motoring and public transport fulfil specific needs and citizens use whichever is most convenient.”
The AA's biggest concern was that policymakers should be realistic about the current role of private motoring. “We support plans to develop public transport and we encourage motorists to use alternative transport options where they exist. But we also need to be pragmatic and accept that widespread, easily-accessible public transport is probably 20 years away,” the AA said. “Motorists will need to continue with the kind of hands-on approach seen in the fight against e-tolling to avoid being exploited with unfair taxes merely because alternative public transport has yet to be developed.”
Automobile Association of South Africa (AA)
011 799 1180