“Our level of car dependency has reached sheer madness.”
Subsidies and social engineering: or why we build roads.
There was a wonderful tirade against the car this morning from Will Self:
Will Self argues that the car is anything but a source of freedom.
While drivers think it gives them the ability to go anywhere, in truth ‘they’re shackled to a grotesque and Sisyphean go-round: they have to make the money, to pay for the car, to sit in the traffic jam, to make the money to pay for the car’.
He is certainly not alone – as with this piece from Rachael Revesz writing in the Independent last year:
I’ve come to hate cars with a passion. I know it makes me an angry Karen – but you should hate them too
People still believe they have a God-given right to drive, when many could nip down to the shops on foot or on a bike
I can’t pinpoint the moment I woke up from my blissfully ignorant reverie about the state of our planet. I just know that one day, I opened my front door and was wildly angry about the number of cars on the roads. It was the noise, I realised, of the grinding engines, the coughing ignitions, a car idling on the pavement, clouding me in fumes while the driver listened to the radio. It was a daily assault on my mental health, and I had only just clocked it…
The first thing the government did as we came out of lockdown, in fact, was to open up car showrooms and announce an investment of more than £27bn in roads around the UK over the next five years. They heartily discourage us from using public transport, yet research shows that wearing a mask on a bus is not likely to transmit the virus. The irony is people are now avoiding the bus or train and jumping in a car instead, yet we know that up to 36,000 people die every year from air pollution. Research shows that pedestrianising shopping streets does not hurt retailers – pedestrians spend more money than motorists. We know that building more car parks means we are encouraging people to drive (for example, this report says, “parking has an active role in perpetuating and further embedding the private car into society, into our cities and into everyday life”).
So why do we keep resisting change? How many more people have to die in car accidents – five people on average every day in Britain – or die from air pollution, until we wake up and understand that our level of car dependency has reached sheer madness? I want quiet. I want to open my window at night and hear nothing but the gentle noise of the electric train that comes into our town twice an hour, mostly empty. We’re in the midst of the greatest public health crisis our generations have ever known, yet we keep making ourselves ill. I will never understand it.
Beyond hatred and air pollution, there are many other reasons why the car could be avoided.
It’s all very well going electric – but this involves using lots of finite resources and producing lots of pollution:
Then there is the greenwashing if not downright deceit promoted by the automotive industry:
It’s all about getting us to buy:
And as Will Self suggests, it’s all about getting us to build yet more roads: