A NEW car-sharing scheme is aiming to reduce the number of cars on Oxford’s streets and help tackle the climate emergency.

At a time when the local government is aiming to reduce traffic pollution and the number of vehicles entering the city through Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and other active travel schemes, residents have instead decided to take matters into their own hands.

Emily Kerr, who lives on Argyle Street, looked out of her window one day and decided something had to be done about the number of cars crammed on the narrow East Oxford street.

She said: “I started to wonder if there was a way we could use them more efficiently because there’s always a lot of cars on the street and Oxford is not an easy city to drive in or get around by car.

“I posted on my local Facebook page to see whether people thought we could share cars between us – people thought it was a good idea but said insurance would be the big issue.”

Emily did not let this obstacle stop her, however, and went out and found a commercial provider called ‘Hiya Car’.

“Hiya Car’ essentially works as an ‘Airbnb’ for cars,” Emily explained, “people rent their cars out at a commercial rate to strangers, just as you would rent someone’s home out on ‘Airbnb’.

“The app covers the insurances, and verifies people’s licenses, and identity before people come and borrow your car.”

Graeme Risby founded Hiya Car in 2016 but said it has only in the last year started to take off.

He said: “The closed-loop in Oxford is really exciting because from day one we have been focusing on how we can change the mobility on a local level and affect local communities – because this is how we can connect people and prevent waste from the cars sitting idle.

“For those using the closed-loop, income from the car-sharing is so far down people’s lists, people just want to move cars off the road to make more space for their kids to play or more space to cycle.

“It’s about people coming together to make a difference.”

Emily decided to set a ‘closed loop’ up with the app, meaning that only neighbours in a six-street radius, and who have agreed to either lend or borrow cars, can use the scheme.

The scheme allows neighbours to borrow cars from owners at their leisure, whether this is a trip to the supermarket a few miles away, or for a week-long trip.

If the journey is less than 20 miles, users do not have to pay for fuel – and if they do, they simply top it up before returning the vehicle.

Over the summer Emily and her neighbours from East Oxford decided to trial the scheme – and it turned out as a great success.

She said: “It worked so well that I decided to give up my car because I now know I will always be able to use my neighbour’s car.

“I had an SUV and did not really think about the environmental impact – I was pregnant, and the dealer told me it was the safest type of car – but now I realised I can go car free.”

Emily also stressed the amount of money she will be saving with this new scheme.

“The average cost of running a car in the UK is nearly £300 a month, and it’s really expensive.

“Our neighbourhood loop will make travelling by car much cheaper for me.”

Teresa, who lives on Parker Street, decided to take part in the trial to do her bit from the environment.

She said: “I have to say the lending has gone really well for me – it makes me feel connected in a different way to my community because I get to meet people who live locally.

“My main motivation is because we are living in a climate emergency.

“We not only need fewer cars on the road, but we also need fewer cars being produced, because the whole production is environmentally very damaging.”

The success of the trial scheme, which will be made permanent in the next few months, has led to Emily being contacted by people all over the UK – away as Edinburgh and Derbyshire.

Other locals in Oxford are also looking to set up their own ‘Hiya Loop’ including two in North Oxford and others across East Oxford.

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