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Home > Letters & Commentary > Car Culture Run Amok

Frank Nilsen, © Copyright B.M. Goodman

Car Culture Run Amok

by Frank Nilsen

Southern California is viewed by many as a place where the car culture has run amok. It does indeed take a stretch of the imagination to accept the notion that miles and miles of freeways, streets and alleyways actually reduce traffic congestion and make life better.

LA Sprawl In fact, quite the opposite seems true. Though increasing roads by number and size may acutely relieve particular points of congestion, this approach to traffic management merely serves to increase the overall volume of traffic in the long run. Southern California demonstrates that this vicious cycle of more cars and more road space is failing—on a colossal scale—to work as an effective mode of transportation.

The degradation of our environment, personal health and the livability of our communities is directly attributable to an over dependence on the car and a symptomatic need to build more roads.

Savings and Freedom

Automobile dependence is expensive, and reduced use of one's car WILL save money (see Case Study for a real-world example). Commuting by public transit one or two days per week Dollar would result in substantial savings in gasoline, auto maintenance, repairs, insurance premiums and registration renewal costs.

Taking the "big step" and dumping one's car does not mean "doing without." On the contrary, becoming auto free truly means becoming free. Rather than just reducing the costs and hassles associated with owning and operating a car, being auto free means eliminating those burdens all together.

A New World

In a similar way that more cars create a need for additional roads thus generating more traffic, using one's car less leads to less dependence on it. When we structure our lives—and cities—around alternative modes of transportation, the need for a car goes away.

Classic Bike We may also be surprised to discover a whole new world, one that we raced past during our car-driving days. Time spent waiting for a bus or a train may reveal a restaurant, store or a library that we begin to visit on a regular basis.

Walking to and from the bus or the train reminds us of the health benefits of walking. Commuting while someone else does the driving gets our eyes and minds off the traffic and onto the passing scenery, a book, or perhaps, simply, our own thoughts.

A Better Life

Child on Swing The personal benefits of driving less notwithstanding, more important are the benefits we all reap as a result of decreased use and dependence on our cars—cleaner air, less noise and our landscapes would not be as overrun with roads, parking lots and junk yards.

Quality of life is important. Since choosing other modes of transportation, such as walking and biking—whenever possible—results in better personal health, and a cleaner, more livable and esthetically pleasing environment, balancing our car use with other ways of getting around truly would provide for us all a better life.

Spring, 1999

They never
owned cars!

Abraham Lincoln, Chief Pontiac and many other great and accomplished individuals lived long and happy lives without cars.

How about you? Take the next step, literally. Get out of your car and discover a new world, one where human interaction—instead of human isolation—revitalizes your spirit for community and a clean evnvironment.

Earth-1, Save As...

Right lane starts here; yield to bikes

Thank you City of Ventura, CA for implementing these new signs around town. Larger image »

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