Many people believe that the car is an efficient means of transportation. By calculating the 'effective speed' of your car it appears that the opposite is true.

Ivan Illich claimed that in 1973:

"the model American male devotes more than 1,600 hours a year to his car. He sits in it while it goes and while it stands idling. He parks it and searches for it. He earns the money to put down on it and to meet the monthly installments. He works to pay for gasoline, tolls, insurance, taxes, and tickets. He spends four of his sixteen waking hours on the road or gathering his resources for it. And this figure does not take into account the time consumed by other activities dictated by transport: time spent in hospitals, traffic courts, and garages; time spent watching automobile commercials or attending consumer education meetings to improve the quality of the next buy. The model American puts in 1,600 hours to get 7,500 miles: less than five miles per hour."

42 years of technological innovation later...

Suppose, an average Dutch man called Martijn drives a Toyota Avensis station wagon (mid-size car). He purchased it second hand for about € 14,000 with 105,600 miles. It's a diesel and it does 44 miles per gallon. Adding up all the costs, Martijn puts down € 773 a month to drive this car. With an income which is two times the median income in the Netherlands Martijn still needs to work 32 hours a month to pay off his car. The average speed of all cars in the Netherlands is 20 miles per hour (depending on whether you live in the countryside or the city this might be higher or lower). Adding up the hours that Martijn needs to work to pay his car, the average speed (effectieve speed) is not higher than that of a cyclist.

People believe that the car is an efficient and economical mode of transportation. By calculating the effective speed of the car it appears that this believe is false.

Over the past fifty years the car has dominated the Dutch physical and imaginary landscape. More than 3 percent of the land area in the Netherlands is covered by roads (adding up the surrounding area that is affected (air quality, noise, nature) the space that roads take up rises above than 10%), people are spending more and more hours in the car and many cannot imagine having to do without it.

We think that the car due to its speed saves time. But when you are traveling by car, you not only lose the time it takes to go from A to B. You also have to work many hours to pay your car tax, insurance, maintenance and fuel. Moreover, you spend many hours in traffic jams and it often takes some time before you find a proper parking lot. Let alone the costs to society (medical care, construction and maintenance of roads, police, air pollution, etcetera).

The effective speed is calculated on the basis of the price of the car (costs per kilometer) and income (nett income). The amount of hours you have to work to drive your car (taxes, insurance, fuel, etcetera) is added to the average speed of a car driver in the Netherlands. (35 km/hour - 20 miles/hour).

You can calculate the costs per kilometer here: ANWB, or you can use an average depending on the type of car (NIBUD): a city car: €0,29, a supermini/subcompact car: €0,34, a compact car: €0,41 and a mid-size car: €0,51. The costs calculated by NIBUD are based on a new car for the first 10 years of use, at an average of 16.000 km/year (990,000 miles/year).




Nett monthly income: euro
Work hours: hours/week
Costs per kilometer (calculate here) in Dutch: euro


The effective speed of your car: km/hour

Ivan Illich (1926 - 2002) was a philosopher, priest, and historian who looked at the modern world with a critical eye.

According to him, the modern world is defined by mighty institutions that make the individual dependent and give her/him a feeling of impotence.

Because a lot of money is invested in the acceleration of transporation, the distances between facilities increase. People cannot do without a car to go to a hospital or a shop. This is what Ivan Illich calls the "radical monopoly" of fast transportation.

The human being becomes a slave to the car. Instead of helping the human being in getting somewhere faster, it obliges the individual to use the car more often and longer.

According to Ivan Illich the individual has to live this myth, even though the car never delivers the time savings it promises.

Francis Alys - Rehearsal 1