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What we’re up against

Posted by on November 22nd, 2006 at 8:48 am

[Movie still from 1954 GM
propaganda film. (Click to watch)]

America’s pervasive car culture is a major barrier to making bicycles a respected mode of transportation.

Many of the decision makers, planners, and traffic engineers in cities throughout the country were brought up to think that driving everywhere in a private car was an essential part of the American Dream.

A few weeks ago, at the Film Celebration of Portland Transportation, Greg Raisman shared an amazing film called, Give Yourself the Green Light.

This movie was produced by General Motors to gain public support for the Interstate Highway System. It is blatant propaganda at its finest.

The film hoped to instill fear in America’s car-loving citizens that we needed more roads and parking lots in order to fulfill, the “American Dream of freedom on wheels.”

It was surreal to watch this movie in a theater full of progressive transportation activists and planners.

Sit back and watch this movie (it’s about 27 min.) some time. You won’t know whether to laugh or cry.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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MacaroninuovorecordVal A Lindsay IIrevphilCurt Recent comment authors
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Jeff
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The video nearly caused me to vomit all over my desk.

How f—ing selfish do people have to be?

nj
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nj

“…many people favor tollroads…proving many of us who drive will pay extra by the mile, and pay every trip, to travel a good road.”

“dream big, act boldly.”

Rixtir
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Rixtir

That mentality is still alive and kicking:

http://americandreamcoalition.org/

Gregg
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Gregg

I remember thinking this was a parody! How sad that it is real.

Do all documentary voice over people from that period just sound the same or was it always the same guy?

Hubert
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Hubert

The posting the other day about removing cars from bike blvds and a few other postings such as this get me thinking. While an avid recreational cyclist who commutes to work by bike occassionally, are cyclists really ready for what they are asking? Be careful what you ask for, you may get it.

After all, gas taxes fund roads and bike lanes and rails to trails projects. If cars are removed, who is going to fund the routes cyclists crave free of cars? Are cyclists willing to pay tolls to ride the exclusive bike blvds and to build the extensive bike routes be sought? At the moment, government gets no revenue from cyclists. What will happen to cycling when there is all of a sudden several thousand dollars per year required to ride the Springwater Corridor, or tolls to ride bike lanes, or…you get the point. We owe cars a debt of gratitude for paying for our alternatives.

Curt
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Curt

Hubert, with all due respect, I think you have your facts backwards. The largest funding source for highway and road construction is the general fund–taxes paid by everyone (including bicyclists, who are also taxpayers). Obiously bicyclists need a lot less pavement and fewer major highways to get around comfortably, so a lot of that highway construction is “wasted money” if you’re a bicyclist and don’t use those multi-lane highways very often. In other words, if you ride a bike as your primary mode of transportation, your general-fund tax dollars being used to subsidize car drivers, not the other way around.

Macaroni
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Macaroni

(Right on, Curt.)

Jonathan, et al, I haven’t watched the subject film yet, but I have a question about a film that was made in the Portland area about sprawl. I can’t remember the name of it but I remember OPB would not show it. I tried for a while to try and get it from the library, to no avail. Does anyone remember the name of it?
I’m not talking about The End of Suburbia which is very recent, not filmed in Portland, but IS available from the MCL system. I highly recommend it. It is awesome.

revphil
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revphil

might you mean “Lessons from Portland, the Defeat of the Mt. Hood Freeway” http://www.nycsr.org/nyc/video-view.php?id=24

Clarence Eckerson, whadda guy

Val A Lindsay II
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Val A Lindsay II

I remember the Interstate Highway system being touted as a quick and easy exodus from centralized populations due to atomic war. How silly does idea that look now?

On the other end of it I have extesively used the Interstates to move across the country. I’d personally be sort of a hypocrite to be against the system, even with silly propaganda films such as this, after using it so much.

So which is it? For or against the Interstate?

nuovorecord
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nuovorecord

“So which is it? For or against the Interstate?”

In my opinion, neither. I’d say that Interstates in cities are the real problem. The model for the US Interstate system was the German Autobahn system that so impressed Eisenhower. It’s a great way to move vehicles quickly over long distances. The Interstate is in place and it’s likely that we’re going to see it disappear as a primary means of transportation between cities.

That said, getting rid of or greatly cutting back interstates and limited-access roads within the city is something that I think Portland ought to be focused on. The German autobahns don’t, for the most part, cut directly through cities, but rather stay to the outskirts.

Macaroni
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Macaroni

revphil,
Thanks for providing the video “Lessons from Portland.” I really enjoyed it and will share it. It’s much more recent than the one I was trying to think of.