I have a neighbour who regularly travels with his wife and their two children. To move the four of them around, he bought a minibus with 20 seats.
'Why have you done that?' I asked, choosing my words carefully. 'There are only four of you - wouldn't a car make a lot more sense? It would take up less space and use a lot less fuel.'
He gave me a level look. 'But once every six weeks it's my turn to take my son's football team to their match. I need a vehicle with 20 seats.'
'Er, okay. But why not buy a normal car and just hire a minibus on the odd occasions you need one?' I asked. 'It would be a lot cheaper, and probably easier for you.'
'Oh, who can be bothered with that?' he replied, and stomped off.
Okay, so this neighbour is fictitious, but I've had almost exactly the same conversation with many people, with the only difference being that the numbers are all 5 times lower. There are so many people who buy a car with five seats primarily to move one person around. When challenged, they always point out some achingly unusual event as justification ('What about when I need to take rubbish to the tip?') I mean, what's that? Twice a year? Three times?
As plans for congestion charging force us to think about the consequences of our travel more and more, it is the sheer bone-crunching illogic and irrationality of this thinking that drives me crazy. Cars are fundamentally badly designed in various ways (e.g., their need for huge slurpy soft tyres to stop them flying off the road), and one of their basic design faults is that they take up the same amount of valuable road-space to convey one person as five. As I've mentioned before, people are going to have to realise that if they travel alone 95% of the time, it is better for everyone - including them - if they get a one-person vehicle and hire something bigger on the odd occasion they need more space. It's such a shame that we're going to have to go through masses of congestion and heavy-handed legislation to make people act rationally. Bah.