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