‘Travel Diaries From Around Birmingham’

Jackie Hodgson- Car sharing

I work 18 miles away, at the University of Warwick. After spending six wonderful months in Bordeaux, living only a five-minute walk away from work, I was not looking forward to the return to Birmingham – and the 40-minute drive to the University. Public transport is much more lengthy taking up to an hour and a half with two buses and a train. Happily, a friend put me in touch with a colleague in another department, who turned out to live very close by. So began my lift-sharing career, back in 1994!

The commute from Birmingham to Warwick is not bad – you are generally going the opposite way to the traffic and I have discovered some great country routes, avoiding the dreaded A45. But 40 minutes each way is so much less tiring when you have company, or better still, you are a passenger. I have lift shared with an interesting array of colleagues in the departments of German, Politics, Law and Sociology and many have become good friends. There is a certain intimacy about sharing the beginning and end of your working day with someone. The car has been the site of exchange for good practices at work (how do you operate your workload model? Or deal with that difficult colleague?) as well as support and encouragement in research and teaching endeavours. It has also been a great social space, discussing everything from films, holidays and politics to childcare and relationships.

However, lift sharing is not for everyone. Boys don’t like to commit! With one notable exception, all my regular lift sharers have been women. Men have been happy to give me a lift, but interestingly, they do not ask for lifts in return. They prefer to set the times and keep things a little flexible. Academics do not all keep the same hours, but my current lift sharers (we are up to four in the car at present!) are committed to accommodating one another where possible – leaving earlier or staying later if it means avoiding two cars driving, rather than one.

The appeal of lift sharing is even greater now, given the cost of fuel. Warwick actively promotes lift sharing and has its own scheme to register and find potential lift shares, as well as designated parking spaces for car shares. I am a big fan of lift sharing and as well as being environmentally and financially appealing, it makes the commute to work more pleasant and less stressful.

‘Travel Diaries From Around Birmingham’