To repeat: Car-centrism, or if you will “automobile supremacy,” not only is a form of imperialism. It is perhaps the last remaining form of imperialism almost entirely absent social stigma.
When we get behind a steering wheel — all of us, including me — our assumptions of acceptable behavior change every bit as radically as when we savage people on social media.
Imperialism? Very much so.
Space must be seized to accommodate cars to the expense of non-car users. We expect to warehouse cars on public ground at no cost to ourselves. We demand cheap fuel and will support limitless violence (foreign wars, domestic economic coercion) in order to get it. We’ll go to any length to characterize this addiction as freedom. The list of destructive behavior is seemingly endless, and yet we’ve made automobile supremacy the basis of civilization at the present time.
And then there’s that other factor, because cars are death machines, and we seem to like it that way. How “freedom” fits into this dichotomy remains a complete mystery to me.
By Allison Arieff (New York Times)
Cars are death machines. Pedestrian fatalities in the United States have increased 41 percent since 2008; more than 6,000 pedestrians were killed in 2018 alone. More than 4,000 American kids are killed in car crashes every year – I am thankful every day my niece wasn’t one of them.
Straight to the conclusion.
I’m not so naïve to think we can get rid of cars altogether, but we have so many tools to eliminate traffic-related injuries and fatalities right now. Banning all passenger auto-driving vehicles above a certain weight and front grill height would be a great start. Other solutions run the gamut from the quick and easy fixes — like reducing speed limits, eliminating right turns on red, building protected bike lanes and instituting congestion pricing — to major and necessary commitments like funding new transit projects (upgrading, maintaining and expanding existing transit systems) and rethinking land use to encourage walkable development rather than sprawl.
We can all commit to driving less, which reduces both CO2 emissions and the potential for crashes. We need to be as defensive about crosswalks and bike lanes as drivers are about their cars (and where we believe we are entitled to park them).
Until then, the streets will belong to the death machines.