Why I Quit Driving

I have no problem with coming right out and saying it.   I am anti-car.  I am vehemently and totally against our society’s current relationship with the automobile.  The expectation that everyone can own a car and use it as one’s primary transportation is delusional and dangerous.  However, I am not anti-driver. And there is a big difference.  Love the patient.   Hate the disease.

Imagine that you grew up in an alcoholic family, watching your sisters and brothers beaten, your parents so drunk they couldn’t stand up, watching them collapse in the gutter puking their guts out, watching them neglect the ones who they loved and gamble the family’s nest egg just so they could get one more bottle of booze.  If this was you, I imagine you’d be pretty anti-alcohol, despite perhaps enjoying a glass of wine with dinner on occasion as an adult.

Our society is like that family- but the drug of choice is of course, fossil fuels, with the most potent method of administering that drug being the motor vehicle.   Sadly, the addiction is that much worse because it goes undiagnosed (and like many other drugs is extremely dangerous when combined with alcohol).  The side effects written off as “tragic accidents” and “natural” disasters.  Somehow we have grown numb to the impacts.  The biggest killer of our kids.  The greatest threat to our future.  Doesn’t get much bigger than that.

We need an intervention of historic proportions- a way to shake ourselves out of our complacency. But how, when, and where?  Who?  You?

So why am I anti-car?  So glad you asked.  Let us count the reasons:

Top Ten Reasons I am Anti-Car:

Cars are killing our kids. Motor vehicles are the number one killer of California children and UK boys (1).

Cars are poisoning the air. We sacrifice the air that we breathe to exhaust pipes, the toxins from which kill up to an estimated 2.4 million people/ year and degrade the health and quality of life of billions more. (2)  One’s right to breathe is now considered less important than one’s right to drive.

Cars are destroying our mental health Worsening road noise causes an unknown epidemic of stress, sleep deprivation- even heart disease and depression. (3)

Cars are destroying our local social lives and communities. The volume of traffic on your road largely determines the number of your neighbors with whom you are acquainted,  and particularly the number of close friends.  (4)

Cars are terrifying billions into lives of inactivity and disease. Cars not only allow people to live virtually exercise-free lives, they also scare countless others away from walking and bicycling and into sedentary (and often solitary) lifestyles.  Lovely stuff.   Skyrocketing obesity levels in the developed world are a predictable outcome of our car-friendly planning and transport policies over the last 60 years.  In the United States, 70% of the population fails to meet minimum recommended physical activity (5), a deficiency that leads to over $77 billion per year in hospital costs. (6)

Cars destroy human and animal life.  We kill or seriously injure 50 million human beings (7) (more than 200 Haitis) and somewhere over 1 billion wild and domesticated animals every year which we dismiss as “accidents” on the world’s roads. (8)  The truth is that this massive suffering and death toll is a preventable tragedy.  Deaths and injuries are strongly linked to the number and speed of vehicles on a given roadway. (9)  One less car will actually save a life.

Cars are jeopardizing our stable climate.  We are endangering the very foundation of our civilization- a stable, productive climate, just so we can continue to put the pedal to the metal.  Despite clear warnings from scientists, we persist in selfish and self-destructive behaviors like individual, habitual driving- not because we are evil, but because we think that someone else is paying attention to the problem.  Cars are responsible for more CO2 emitted than any other sector in California. (10)

Adolf Hitler LOVED cars. And yes, what top ten list would be complete without Hitler.  It is true that the man himself really was the driving force behind the Volkswagen, the Autobahn, and ultimately the technique of killing 6 million Jews and other undesirables efficiently with the use of the internal combustion engine.

On that note, happy cycling.

Sources

(1)  ONS, 2002. Social Focus in Brief: Children July 2002. London: Office for National Statistics/TSO. Available from: http://www.statistics.gov.uk [Accessed 8 April 2008].  For US: http://www.disastercenter.com/cdc/111riskc.html

(2) WHO, 2002. Estimated deaths & DALYs attributable to selected environmental risk factors. WHO Member State, 2002.

(3)  YAMAZAKI, S., SOKEJIMA, S., NITTA, H., NAKAYAMA, T., FUKUHARA, S., 2005. Living close to automobile traffic and quality of life in Japan: A population-based survey, International Journal of Environmental Health Research, 15:1, 1-9.

(4)  APPLEYARD, D., 1969.  The Environmental Quality of City Streets: The Residents’ Viewpoint.  Journal of the American Planning Association, 35, pp. 84-101.

and

HART, J. (2008) Driven to Excess: Impacts of Motor Vehicle Traffic on Residential Quality of Life in Bristol, UK.  University of the West of England 2008.

(5)  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, 2000. Healthy People 2010. Washington, DC: USDHHS.

(6)  PRATT, M., MACERA, C.A., WANG, G., 2000. Higher direct medical costs associated with physical inactivity. The Physician and Sports Medicine. 28 (10), 63–70.

(7) WHO, 2004. Global strategy on diet, physical activity and health. Geneva: World Health Organization.

(8) http://culturechange.org/issue8/roadkill.htm

(9)  ROBERTS, I., NORTON, R., JACKSON, R., DUNN, R., HASSALL, I., 1995.  Effect of environmental factors on risk of injury of child pedestrians by motor vehicles: a case-control study.  British Medical Journal. 310:91-94.

and

IIHS, 2000. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Status Report 35 (5), May 13, 2000.

(10) http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_vehicles/solutions/cleaner_cars_pickups_and_suvs/californias-global-warming.html

3 responses to “Why I Quit Driving

  1. Fantastic post! I agree with you completely.

  2. I agree with your reasons. Top reason for me refusing to drive is to protest against people who blindly obey the system. Almost every American I’ve met living in America, has never considered living without a car. and they call if freedom. American people never even consider having an option when it comes to transport and they call it freedom. It is extremely difficult for me to live in Missouri (for a short while I hope) and still believe in my definition of freedom. I am considering moving to a city with a culture of public transport.
    This blog makes me happy, I am not alone anymore.

  3. You are absolutely right. Few people are earnest enough to say these things. Car makers are making a lot of money out of playing with people’s lives, thousands of people die but no one seems to care. Society has accepted cars as an unavoidable evil, I am sure many people don’t like driving but somehow they think of life without a car as something impossible…well, that’s how brainwashed people in our “modern” and “brilliant” 21st century are. And let us not forget road rage. I had been thinking about quitting driving, as road violence became more and more evident to me. But when I was physically attacked by a violent driver in front of my own house -and before my 71 year old mother’s eyes – last November, I decided I had had enough. Now, I have more time for my passion -music-, and I think I just feel better. Thank you for your post.

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