They call it ‘car-sharing’ – a title that doesn’t do justice in my view as really the nature of car sharing is precisely the same as that of car-rental but on a shorter lead-time; but calling it ‘short-lead-time-car-rental’ isn’t as catchy nor does the acronym ‘SLTCR’ spell anything interesting. Though that said, from now on I think I might refer to it as ‘SLuT-CaR’, if only for amusement value.
SLuT-CaR schemes exist in many cities around the world, but the scheme in Strasbourg is said to have been the first such in France. Initially launched as ‘auto’trement‘, a play on words that makes it sound a bit like ‘autrement’ (otherwise), the scheme was soon renamed France-Autopartage (France car-sharing) after they discovered that no-one could pronounce it.
Some take a view that SLuT-CaR is simply another way to own a car, and is meant for the poor folk who obviously can’t afford to have their own gas-guzzling combustion engine, and even those who understand that this is not the case regard the scheme as being so ridiculously expensive, that it isn’t worth the bother. But as long as that is a commonly held view, those of us who use the scheme will continue to wear a smug grin just below our noses.
For, if you’ve ever owned a car, you will know just how painful an experience it can be – financially and emotionally. The financial dis-incentives of ownership are reason enough to rent a car when you need one, but what ordinary renting does not offer is the convenience of ownership; having to book in advance, pick up and return during working hours, and fill out reams of paperwork each time. While you may not be able to find a parking space outside your home, at least with ownership you know a set of wheels is only a short walk away whenever you feel the need to nip down to the hypermarket to pick up fifteen crates of cheap lager.
And that’s when SLuT-CaR becomes a compelling reason to ditch your old jalopy; for it offers that convenience, and those lagers can be retrieved similarly, but with the added bonus of not needing to own the wheels in question.
Last night for instance I dropped the babysitter home at 11.30pm, having booked the car online at 11.17pm, picked it up at 11.20pm and returned it by 11.35 (to the reserved parking space a short walk from my front door) – and all I paid was 1.36 EURO for the privilege, that’s cheaper than a single tram ticket!
Of course I wouldn’t recommend SLuT-CaR if you intend to do a two week road-trip, but if you’re an urban monkey there is little reason to own a car in a city like Strasbourg.
Now, I’ll stop there because I need to go and pick up some lagers …