Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Cars are Killing Us

People love their cars. Why? I guess it must be because cars are:

  • Dangerous: In the U.S.A. during the first two weeks of September 2001, more people were killed by automobiles, than by terrorism and AIDS combined!
  • Unhealthy: Polluting, resource guzzling, carbon distasters that encourage inactivity
  • Unsustainable: "Widening roads to solve traffic congestion is like loosening your belt to cure obesity." -- Walter Kulash, a traffic engineer, Orlando, Fla.
  • Inefficient: 95% of the energy goes towards moving the CAR -- not the cargo/passengers.
  • Expensive: A light rail line can move the same number of people at peak travel time as a 12 lane highway, in a right of way 20% as wide at 30% of the cost. So why do we pay fares for transit when almost all roads are toll-free?
  • Isolating: "Enclosing ourselves in little bubbles, utterly separated from the rest of the world while we drive to our isolated house cut out of a forest so we can pretend we are alone in the world and not have to deal with anything that might be unpleasant, even reality."
    - Mostly taken from

This is not new information. We have known the problems with cars for a long time. This, for example, was written in 1977:

The fact that cars are large is, in the end, the most serious aspect of a transportation system based on the use of cars, since it is inherent in the very nature of cars. Let us stats this problem in its most pungent form. A man occupies about 5 square feet of space when he is standing still, and perhaps 10 square feet when he is walking. A car occupies about 350 square feet when it is standing still (if we include access), and at 30 miles an hour, when cars are 3 car lengths apart, it occupies about 1000 square feet. As we know, most of the time cars have a single occupant. This means that when people use cars, each person occupies almost 100 times as much space as he does when he is a pedestrian.

If each person driving occupies an area 100 times as large as he does when he is on his feet, this means that people are 10 times as far apart. In other words, the use of cars has the overall effect of spreading people out, and keeping them apart.
- A Pattern Language Christopher Alexander, et al. (read the book or get more info)

It is almost 30 years later, and public transit is still underfunded, and sprawl continues unabated. Unfortunately, unless pedestrian-friendly cities become the rule rather than the exception, people will remain car-dependent.

Cars are killing us, but we are supposed to fear terrorist evil-doers, Anthrax, West Nile Virus, wedded gay people, Mexicans...

More on the Environment & Urban Issues.


Saskboy said...

Pedestrians have no way to get from A to B in most cities, it's shameful when all it would take is 6 feet of empty space for a path here and there.

My bike's odometer turned over to 522km this year.

Anonymous said...

Just found your blog, very nice.

Never mind all the environmental effects, they make everything around them look uglier, whether they're just parked on an otherwise pleasant looking street, or the reason for multi-laned streets and the forgot-about-the-pedestrian style of city planning. Plus, people in their cars don't look nearly as cool as they think they do. :D