Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Support quality journalism
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24weeks
The Globe and Mail
Support quality journalism
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Globe and Mail website displayed on various devices
Just$1.99
per week
for the first 24weeks

var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){console.log("scroll");var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1);

Two cars travel on Interstate 5 during the outbreak of coronavirus in Seattle on March 16, 2020.

LINDSEY WASSON/Reuters

It could have been my imagination, but in early March, I saw a lot more vehicles on the road. The morning and afternoon commutes grew more congested. There were more bicycles too, I think. On Twitter, there were reports of fewer folks using public transit. It’s as if people who own cars, but normally choose public transit because it can be faster and has less of an environmental impact, are opting for a more private and isolated form of transportation. Credit the spectre of an uninvited guest that has insinuated itself into our lives.

Welcome to “Cars in a time of COVID-19.”

An oft-maligned mode of transportation – the automobile – is looking pretty good right now.

Story continues below advertisement

After all, epidemiologists are advocating that we practice “social distancing” as a way of slowing the transmission of the novel coronavirus. Social distancing is the act of curtailing public interactions.

What could be more socially distant than the automobile?

Social isolation is what driving is all about. That’s one of the reasons I’ve always loved it. A car is a large metal rolling isolation chamber. The driver is at once in the world and removed from it. The world lies on the other side of the glass. People like to complain about being stuck in traffic. The truth is a lot of us savour those moments of blissfully frustrated solitude.

Taking public transit, especially during the winter, can be a crowded, virally uneasy experience. Don’t be offended if, after you cough, I move away. I do that each time someone near me coughs. It’s not you I object to, it’s your cough. It’s nothing personal. I’m just not fond of germs. I think “Purell” would be a wonderful name for a child. This conviction has not decreased with varying reports of passengers testing positive for COVID-19.

You could argue that cycling provides social detachment, but it appears more cordial. Cyclists always seem more open and jovial (at least when cycling in the warmer months). You see them chatting with one another and enjoying the (somewhat) fresh air.

Not so for the driver.

British synth-pop star Gary Numan put it best in his 1979 hit ‘Cars:’ “Here in my car/ I feel safest of all/ I can lock all my doors/It’s the only way to live/ In cars.”

Story continues below advertisement

During a time of great uncertainty, this mobile confinement can feel like a blessing.

These days, time moves swiftly, even though it has taken on a surreal quality. Almost as soon as the roads started to clog, they began to drain. The traffic actually moved at a reasonable pace the last time I drove to work. It’s not surprising. Schools are closed. People work from home.

It would be an unexpected delight if the situation weren’t so uncertain and unnerving. What good is a car and an open road if you have nowhere to go? If everything is closed and everyone is shut in?

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

I, however, drive on, sitting in my Mini Cooper Countryman with the stereo playing and the seat warmer on, dreaming of life as normal, replete with traffic delays and frustrated drivers, borne back ceaselessly into utter denial.

Shopping for a new car? Check out the Globe Drive Build and Price Tool to see the latest discounts, rebates and rates on new cars, trucks and SUVs. Click here to get your price.

Story continues below advertisement

Stay on top of all our Drive stories. We have a Drive newsletter covering car reviews, innovative new cars and the ups and downs of everyday driving. Sign up for the weekly Drive newsletter, delivered to your inbox for free. Follow us on Instagram, @globedrive.

In the interests of public health and safety, our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access. However, The Globe depends on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe to globeandmail.com. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.

Your subscription helps The Globe and Mail provide readers with critical news at a critical time. Thank you for your continued support. We also hope you will share important coronavirus news articles with your friends and family. In the interest of public health and safety, all our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies