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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Carless, Clueless, Confess

"Jay" tells me, "It seems highly plausible," to him, "that over 75% of Americans live in areas where carlessness is not a practical option," in the Moot to a post from a few months back, Driverless Cars As Dead-Ender Car Culture Apologia. To this, I respond:

"Not to me. Unless "practical" denotes the convenience (so-called) of a life indistinguishable from one shaped by lifelong personal car use. Nevertheless, I am quite happy to agree with you that a non-negligible proportion of the rural and suburban population presently does need access to cars for now, hence that the focus should be, as we already agree, on the expansion of public transportation infrastructure, electric carshares, and zoning for walkable cities for now. Else, I now know from ample experience this conversation becomes roughly as impossible without needing to be as conversations with people who think gun safety regulation is taking their guns away or freedom of conscience kills baby jebus and so on."

That last bit was not directed to Jay, but I do know from reading Atrios and others that when it comes to Americans and their cars, the least suggestion that Americans rely on their cars in defiance of sense or that cities might sensibly rethink themselves as anything but vast parking lots sited between million lane sooper-highways often provokes wildly disproportionate howls about inconvenience and totalitarian eco-fascists from car owners who could easily walk more.

I'll grant that I have access to transit options that are unavailable in much of rural and suburban America, but there are car owners by the hundreds in my immediate vicinity who drive to the grocery store I walk to with my handcart who pretend that what I am doing represents some kind of surreally unimaginable hardship. There is no kind way to point out how crazy that assessment is.

When I think of the dollar amount the price of gas has risen over the last five years while consumers sigh histrionically but "let the market decide" what they must pay as compared to the pitchfork mob scenes these same people inevitably threaten at the prospect of the price of gas rising by pennies in years past were environmentalists to have implemented gas taxes to fund renewable alternatives from which we all would be benefiting right now, I must say as somebody who has never had a car of his own in his adult life that it is awfully hard to understand where you car people are coming from.


Unknown said...

Jay here. From my suburban Florida house, there's a convenience store about a mile away and a real grocery store about three miles away. I occasionally walk the mile for the exercise, but I don't have an abundance of pressing obligations. If I had three kids and a long workday, the carless life would be pretty tough.

Dale Carrico said...

Yes, suburbs are car culture catastrophes. Some suburbs can be rendered denser and more pedestrian friendly, some can be re-ruralized as ecosystem service terrain for overstressed cities, meanwhile providing wholesome sustainable housing in mixed use urban neighborhoods, eliminating urban food deserts, and zoning for walkable cities can reverse surburban flight/stasis and attract more people into sustainable cities over the long term... but in the shorter term petro-car culture has baked some seriously shitty outcomes into the cake. As I explicitly said, I do not deny that in much of rural and suburban America carlessness would represent real hardship right now. That does not mean we should indulge the false equivalency of folks crying hardship in walkable urban areas with many transit alternatives available, nor does it mean we should accept the inevitability of the car culture which circumscribes alternatives in ways that create this hardship. But of course we already agree on this.

jollyspaniard said...

Folks often have a choice about where they choose to live. The choice of where you live is going to dictate your transportation options.

Dale Carrico said...

There are distressing indications that Americans, especially younger ones, have never been less mobile than they are now, both economically and geographically. More signs of the Singularity, I guess.