Saturday, June 18, 2011


By Hanne

In New Zealand motorcycling takes first place for getting from point A to point B with speed and ease. Click on the helmet, kick over the engine and you’re there before you’ve even left. Although most people choose to drive cars, autonomous transportation is by far the most popular transport method. In other places this is often not the case, and the way people choose to move in places can tell you a lot about their modes of thought.

Started in 2001, ‘Mitfahrgelegenheit’ is a German website where people driving between cities can post up he details of their trip and those who wish to hitch a ride can contact those with cars. More reliable than hitchhiking, passengers simply type in their location and destination, choose a time period and the site search engine finds matches. Passengers pay a nominal contribution towards the cost of the trip – generally around 15-25 euros – and this makes the trip more economical for all parties involved. To get from Munich to Berlin by train one is looking at 116 euros, so ‘Mitfahrgelegenheit’ is a favourite mode of transport for students wanting to visit their hometown without breaking the bank. With 1.7 million registered members, the chances of finding a seat in a car or splitting a train ticket with a group discount are high. In true German style it is efficient, cheap and works like clockwork.

This system is currently only in use in Germany but was adopted for brief periods of time in other European countries after air travel was disrupted by ash clouds. Such a scheme would not go amiss in a country like New Zealand, where getting to places like Hahei or Stratford can be very difficult without a car or bike. Travelling in a car with four other strangers also makes for some interesting conversations. Who would have thought that in the trip form Bavaria to Berlin one could learn so much about molecular physics? While this is normal part of life in Germany, in New Zealand it is rare to see hitchhikers on the side of the road and even rarer to pick them up. People zoom past in their own little bubble, asserting their independence by getting themselves from A to B all on their own.

Perhaps this mentality of autonomy also goes some way towards explaining the road rage in Godzone: the car is the castle and there is little tolerance for cycling or motorcycles or long-haired hippies in the back seat. Trying to become a little more community minded with more carpooling options would not only reduce congestion, it may also help to promote more tolerance on our roads. While bikes will still be the quickest transport over all, the alternatives are well worth considering.