By Andy Chivers

It is hard to spend much time watching television without seeing a car chase. Indeed cars are used in so many ways in films it is easy to think of them as a natural part of the environment. But if you stop for a moment and consider what their ubiquity tells us about our relationship with cars, it is revealing how emotionally entwined we are with these one ton lumps of steel. And asking how a bicycle chase could replace a car chase is a joke, perhaps something Johnny English might do.

Meeting these deep-seated needs with anything other than a car is a preposterous idea. Consider a car chase re-imagined on bikes. That staple of car chases, squeezing through impossibly narrow gaps, would be just normal for bikes. But after that the advantages are hard to see. Firstly anyone (it seems) can jump in a car and drive like an indestructible maniac whereas differences in fitness would quickly determine the outcome of a bike chase, and with no steel armour around, those flying bullets would soon find their target. Skids and rolls would leave the protagonists nursing scrapes and bruises at the least. Cars seems to provide our heroes with super powers – all by pressing on the accelerator pedal. No amount of pedal pushing on a bike can create that impression of unlimited power, though perhaps e-bikes might come close.

At the other end of the scale, a car journey is a metaphor for self-discovery and relationship development, so film producers can put their actors in the front seats and let the dialogue flow. The private space lends intimacy to their time together. A tandem may be the practical equivalent but fails to capture the mood – or the privacy and eye contact opportunities. I wonder if anyone has tried to substitute bikes for cars in films – somehow I don’t think so. For me this shows how our relationship with cars is much more than simply a transport option.

Sadly it is easy to see the car as an extension of our home, a proof of our power and control over the environment and a magic carpet that can take us anywhere without leaving our safe cocoon. Recognising the emotional ties that bind us may help us leave the car behind more often. On the other hand we need to see beyond the utilitarian bike to its role in the 1880s when it was emancipating, liberating, horizon-broadening and revolutionary. In the future the humble bike will be the symbol of all these and in addition, of friendly human interaction, economical, sustainable transport and liveable communities. Perhaps in the car free future the only way we’ll get our fix of car addiction is in those video games machines in amusement arcades.