Sharing is Caring – Capitalism in Sheeps Clothings

[Updated 14.09.15]

Researching about hitchhiking and with that sharing in general I sometimes find real jewels in the endless seas of the intenet. Just recently I ran into a post published as “Can hitch-hiking survive the ‘sharing economy’?” or original as “What’s the Hitch?” by Adam Weymouth.

Besides an original approach about what hitchhiking is in general about there is focus on something that I have in my mind since some months too. In Adams words:

“The sharing economy is hip right now. Airbnb, Zipcar, Taskrabbit, Poshmark, the internet is awash. Sharing bikes, sharing rooms, sharing skills, sharing cars, sharing, as the New York Times has reported, illegal handguns. The industry is valued at £15 billion, much of it little more than platforms that allow users to rent out and cash in on the excess in their lives. Their manifestos buzz with words like ‘community’ and ‘trust’, of cutting out the middle man. “It’s like the UN at every kitchen table” said Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s CEO. But as his company floats on the stock market and Zipcar is bought by Avis, it becomes harder to suspend disbelief that this is not just capitalism dressed up, once again, in sheep’s clothing. Breathless editorials speculate that the sharing economy has the power to do anything from liberating workers from the nine-to-five bind, to creating a slow-burning revolution that could overthrow the current economic system. But it could also be seen as the free market par excellence, as we work 24/7 with no contracts or safety nets, branding ourselves in order to market every aspect of our lives, whilst the companies that provide the platforms sit back and rake in the billions. Wasn’t hitchhiking better than that?”

There is no doubt that car sharing is something that reduces the amount of empty seats in the cars that run our highways up and down like ants. There is no doubt that it is becoming a business for drivers also. People driving from A to B every day or week, promoting the rides on car sharing platforms. Making profit of that. Just a cheap taxi but without any safety for the customers. That is not in any way beneficial to our ecosystem! I claim without any research and/or scientific data about it that at least a third of all the rides on car sharing platforms are commercial.

And despite hitchhiking has become very safe and no reports of any kind of agression [1] in the recent years are in the media it is still stigmatized. I again want to cite from Adams post:

“[…]the stigmatisation that the stranger has undergone. The stranger is a wild and uncertain concept, and hitchhiking, when two strangers are placed in an enclosed and intimate space, is a particularly good situation to gauge current attitudes towards them. Fear of the stranger, the paedophile or the terrorist has grown pervasive, while the slasher films of the 80s, targeted Public Service Announcements, and media focus upon the occasional tragedy have all contributed to demonising hitchhiking.”

Lets have some random numbers YEAH!

  • Around 80% of all passengers are transported in private cars in Austria[a].
  • There are around 5.5 Million Cars in Austria (2013)[b].
  • Crashes and injuries in accidents are stable in the last 10 years although deaths have reduced to ~55% (2014, 430 deaths)[c].
  • pkm (“passenger-kilometers”, pkm) are driven by Austrians in 2015 (est. trend, data from 2004-2007)[d]. Makes 5.000km per car per year (if my assumption of ~1.7 passengers per car is correct, see below).

Unable to cite it I once heared that each car on Austrian streets transports on average 1.7 persons.
[Update 14.09.15] There is of cours data about it and it is even worse than expected, at 1.1 persons per car [2] I did not recalc the numbers though, since I am lazy, you can figure out things yourself!.
This is also what I would expect from my observations standing aside the road for many, many hours. Lets make it a 2 and do some calculations:
Assuming we could – with space reduced by baggage – fit 4 persons in each car we could double the kilometers driven – to 160 Bil. pkm – without adding a single car to the road! It als means, that with good planning it would be able to reduce all traffic to half of the actual without investing more than the time to coordinate for those that can go together.
And just because we can, lets assume 3.3 more persons fit in each car. that would make an additional space for 100 Bil. pkm! That means the free space in our cars in Austria could hold every single person that is driving in Czeck Republic (64 Bil. pkm) and Croatia (26Bil pkm)!

So why not make it like Cuba?

“In Cuba people with a private car are required to pick up hitchhikers. This sounds good but actually less then 40% of the cars passing by are private cars and traffic in total is pretty low already. There are yellow police officers (“amarillos”) who stop cars and oblige the driver to give a lift to the people waiting on the street. There is a small cost involved – about 20 pesos from one city to the next.”

It does not have to be like that, that would kill most likely all of the spirit, but something should change. Because it also can’t stay like that!

  • I want people not to have to fear the stranger!
  • I want people to share the path they are going as a concept of deed to society, without requiring money or anything else, future will pay it back thousand times!
  • And also I want to get where I need to go without paying anything! If we had unconditional basic income I would think different, but that we can also only get if we care for each other!

#rant off

[1] It is clear that a lot of incidents are not reportet, especially when it comes to verbal and/or direct attacks towards women. Everybody should feel encouraged to stand up and claim judgement and has to be heard.
[2] European Environment Agency, also see here.

[a] Eurostat, Modal Split of Passenger Transport
[b] Eurostat, Stock of vehicles by category and NUTS 2 regions
[c] Statistik Austria, Unfälle mit Personenschaden
[d] Eurostat, Passenger road transport on national territory, by type of vehicles registered in the reporting country

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