Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for June 15th, 2011

Is there a war on cars?

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Tyler Harbottle, in the Tyee, does not seem to think so. Although he does find “two renegades who do urge a rush to the barricades. Bianca Mugyenyi and Yves Engler are authors of a new book, Stop Signs: Cars and Capitalism: On the Road to Economic, Social and Ecological Decay, a war-chest of facts, figures and arguments identifying cars as enemies of the people.” So perhaps there ought to be.

There certainly is an on going battle – or perhaps more of a rear guard action – between car advocates and cycling advocates. There is an especially nasty anti cyclist rant dressed up as news in the Courier this morning. What the car advocates fail to point out is that they have had it pretty much their own way for the last hundred years. And the results have not been pretty. There are also people who do, quite deliberately, target cyclists on the road and take pleasure in scaring them – and then hurling abuse. It is a form of road rage. There are also drivers – possibly the same individuals – who hate any other vehicle that gets in their way. Just drive at the speed limit on any road in Greater Vancouver and they will quickly identify themselves. Of course, there is not a lot they can do to intimidate trucks and buses – but they make life as difficult for them as they can. These people are essentially psychopathic – or have an anti-social disorder to use the latest jargon. Sadly some of them seem to be able to command a significant audience in the main stream media. Mostly, the politicians favoured by the elite do the bidding of the corporations – and on the whole they are still wedded to automobiles for themselves and as many as they can foist on the rest of us. It still suits their agenda, even though it is short sighted and self destructive.

Unfortunately, lost in the cyclists versus car drivers debate is all the important stuff about what sort of place we want to live in, what our transportation choices have been doing to us and the place we live in and the planet we depend on. Notice too, how hard the car lobby tries to put the label of “moral superiority” on cyclists – and, by extension, anyone who has the temerity to suggest that we need more and better alternatives to driving everywhere. I suspect that is because they are aware at some level that they have already lost the argument. Cars did not bring us the great benefits they promised – and much of the time we spend in our cars is evidence that the system we have constructed – and are still constructing for it will never ever be enough – does not work very well even in its own terms. We do not have the freedom, mobility or accessibility we were promised. What we do have is, quite literally, killing us. And there are better ways of doing things that have been working well for many years in other places. And we cannot go on as we are.

Cycling is going to be part of our future. So is walking and so is mass transportation of various kinds. Individual motorized transportation  has got to be limited and reduced. And, on the whole, that will prove to be a boon. For while it seemed, once upon a time, that increased car use would have benefits, it is quite clear to anyone who has the requisite capability of making a rational assessment, that the costs of widespread car use far outweigh those benefits. Of course, in the media it is not arguments or facts that matter. Its the narrative – and the small c conservatives have understood how to do that better. Because they have had to, as reality has had a nasty habit of hitting them in the face. But, as we now know, they are immune to facts. 

Written by Stephen Rees

June 15, 2011 at 11:47 am

Posted in bicycles, Environment, placemaking

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