CONFESSION: I love my car.

For all my boring on about the importance of cycling, for the environment and good physical and mental health, I love Stella the Micra. We've been together for 14 years and, oh, the things we have seen, the places we have been.

She's due an MOT soon, I mention to my mum. "That might be her last," she replies. I pat at Stella's air vent, as though it were an ear, so she doesn't hear. Ma Stewart softens and suggests I could keep Stella parked in her driveway, I wouldn't have to trade her in, nothing so brutal.

But the thing about Stella is, she may be an old girl of 14 but she only has about 65,000 miles on the clock because, while I love her like a sister (I'm an only child, I'm guessing here), I do practice what I preach. I do go on public transport as much as possible. I do ride my bike everywhere I can.

We take a trip to Doncaster once a year to visit our friend Stephanie and we drive to Coatbridge from Glasgow every second week. Other than that, she largely sits in the carpark patiently waiting a next outing.

I used to take the train to Doncaster every year, incidentally, until the fares went up wildly. For several years you could get a return ticket for about £24 but then it became cheaper to fly to Europe than to rail southwards, so it was Stella to the rescue.

We'd get lost every year, usually going awry somewhere around Scotch corner. One year I was delighted to find a practical application for my English Lit degree. Entirely lost, I stopped at a service station and clocked a red rose above the entrance. A rose? War of the Roses! Red? Bloody hell, I'm in Lancaster. Wrong side of the country entirely and thank you Shakespeare.

During the coronavirus, however, Stella has never been busier. When life started to slow down but we were still commuting in to the office, I started to drive to work every day due to, at first, a fear of coming in to close contact with people on the bus, and then due to reduced services.

The bike was parked because I was having to carry a load of equipment back and forth, for boring reasons, and it was too heavy and didn't fit in my panniers. Friends who were still commuting did likewise, dropping public transport for the private car.

While very much staying at home for the vast majority of the time, very rare trips that would normally be done on public transport have been done by car. Again, reduced services and reluctance to be close to strangers.

As lockdown has eased, the car has become a focal point for allowing a slight return to some normality. First it was drive thru food and drink outlets. Whereas you might previously have sat in, now driving through was the only option.

Edinburgh and Glasgow city councils have now reintroduced parking charges, in an attempt to ease congestion and get back on track with carbon emission reduction aims while encouraging greener travel.

This is the right thing to do, though it makes it tricky for workers while public transport is still reduced. It also reintroduces the conumdrum of how to encourage people to use our city centres and local high streets now that out-of-town shopping malls with their ample and free parking have reopened.

It's not only commuting, shopping and dining that have become car-centric.

A return to social and leisure activities is focusing on private vehicles too. There are drive-in comedy shows planned, drive-in movies and a drive-in gig - though this was cancelled due to concerns about localised lockdown restrictions.

It's straightforward enough - being in a private vehicle is the most socially distanced place you can be while still enjoying pre-pandemic pursuits.

Glasgow's plans for a low emission zone in the city centre had made me start to think about what to do with my car. Is it more environmentally friendly to keep a relatively low emissions vehicle or to buy, say, an electric car but have that offset with the emissions generated producing it?

I hadn't started to look into that yet but had planned to, as well as trying to work out if I could manage without the car and join a car club instead.

Yet being in an emergency situation has turned all that on its head and made owning a vehicle, once again, the most attractive option, especially with the added boon of the tourism sector opening this week and the five mile travel limit lifted.

The oft repeated sticking point when pushing for increased levels of active travel has been the suboptimal public transport we're faced with.

Now, there's really no defence for public transport because it's unarguably reduced. It wasn't good enough or joined up enough before, and now there is less of it.

Our environmental concerns haven't diminished during the Covid-19 pandemic, they are very much still there and very much in need of relentless, persistent addressing.

It's now a bigger ask than ever before to urge people to embrace greener travel, an ask the transport minister made earlier this week. Reflecting on phase three of lockdown being the most difficult transition phase yet, Michael Matheson said, "The obvious temptation for households with access to a car will be to take that option. However, we know many journeys are less than a few miles and could be covered via active travel, especially over the summer and autumn months."

Using a car, though, isn't merely a temptation now. It's a common sense, understandable option for many. With a reduction in public transport and so many new car-based activities on offer, there are real additional issues of inequality for those households without a vehicle.

The surge of people cycling in lockdown for leisure will, hopefully, be sustained and see those who are biking for exercise start commuting too.

I'd count myself as an active travel advocate but I'm certainly going to have to wean myself back off driving as we move through the pandemic response. Car use is now predicted to rise to 90% of pre-covid levels. We don't want it any higher. Before lockdown there was so much will towards active travel - we need to be taking great strides towards that again.

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