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Cars are the new cigarettes: America’s other deadly habit

Posted by on October 22nd, 2008 at 2:54 pm

Stop Sign in Vancouver BC.jpg

Stop sign in Vancouver BC (click for
larger version so you can
read the fine print).
(Photo © J. Maus)

Close readers of this site might recall that on several occasions I’ve written that, “cars are the new smoking cigarettes.”

It’s something that came from my continued bewilderment that, while most everyone realizes the multitude of negative impacts that come with America’s love-affair with cars, we are just now (and hardly still) beginning to think of them in the same way as cigarettes. That is, as something that is very dangerous, has broad public health implications, and claims the lives of thousands of people each year.

Way back when, cigarettes were cool. Everybody smoked them. From housewives to movie stars, nobody considered the negative impacts of puffing away (like lung cancer, asthma from secondhand smoke, and so on). But, as people started dying by the tens of thousands (including two Marlboro Men), suspicions grew.

Suddenly, the health care community caught on, the government started warning consumers, and popular culture eventually followed.

Now, cigarettes are banned in many public places and the number of people smoke regularly has dwindled to a much more sensible amount.

But there’s another silent killer in our midst — cars. They pollute our air, they kill tens of thousands of people each year (usually in “accidents”), they contribute to obesity, climate change, sprawl, and oil dependence, they degrade our public spaces, and so on.

Fortunately, people are starting to make the connection between cars and cigarettes. They’re beginning to understand that there are serious consequences for all of us because of our high rates of car usage.

Today, I came across even more validation that the comparison is valid while reading the excellent blog, How We Drive. The blog is written by Tom Vanderbilt, the author of Traffic: Why we drive the way we do.

In a post he titled, Changing Entrenched Behaviors, Vanderbilt shared a slide from a talk given by Michael O’Hare, a professor of public policy at University of California at Berkeley. In the slide, O’Hare compares cigarettes in 1968 with cars in 2008. Check it out below (click for larger version):

Taken from a slide presentation by Michael O’Hare via the How We Drive blog.

Vanderbilt wrote on his blog that, “I imagine there would have been few people in 1968 predicting that by 2008 smoking in public places would largely be a thing of the past.”

I hope everyone realizes that I’m intrigued by the ‘cars are the new smoking’ idea not because I simply hate cars and don’t think anyone should drive them. Cars have their place, just like cigarettes have their place. There’s nothing wrong with them, the problem is with us.

I drive my mini-van now and then and I have nothing against taking a drag from a cigarette, a cigar, or other rolled tobacco product if the opportunity presents itself.

It’s not the cars (or the cigarettes), it’s how we choose to use them. I just hope it doesn’t take 40 more years for America to kick this deadly habit.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. 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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Cars Are The New Cigarettes | Cities of VisionkflEl BicicleroJonathan Maus (Editor)Coyote Recent comment authors
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T27
Guest
T27

Cars are more like wine than cigarettes. I find no redeeming quality to cigarettes, but a glass of wine shared with friend and good food enhances life. Drank straight form the bottle by yourself rots life away. Likewise using your car to visit somewhere exciting with friends enhances life. Stuck in traffic by yourself, rots life away. Some find that their lives are best with no wine at all, others in moderation, but addiction is never good.

How different would our lives be if you had to answer the following question before your car would start: will using the car today make your life better? This little question works for purchases too.

dan Kearl
Guest
dan Kearl

This is like an anti smoking commercial in 1960. It will take 40 years for the public to catch up with the health hazard effects of driving.

amy aka orange como
Guest

Check out the movie – Thank you for Smoking – the tobacco lobby is interesting and didn’t we loose all those street cars when Ford bought them out and tore up the streets.

Hart
Guest
Hart

Can I still smoke cigarettes while riding my Peugeot?

Coyote
Guest
Coyote

Likely it will take two generations to change our attitude about cars. It is just too ingrained to drive, and to believe not only that driving harmless, it is actually good for society. Providing jobs, social equity, mobility to the disabled, increased leisure time, and safety.

All of the above are false. In fact cars consume a great deal of productivity, enforce class distinctions, are a real barrier to the disabled, cars enslave us to a pattern of travel that diminishes our free time, and kills and maims hundreds of thousands of people every year.

A change in these attitudes quicker than a few generations will be forced by economic change and the realization of the limits of industrialization. Forced changes in society’s attitudes are are convulsive and rarely pretty.

GLV
Guest
GLV

T27: very well put. Cars are not evil. And cigarettes are easily avoided, cars are not for most people. We have built our entire civilization around them.

Val
Guest
Val

Silent killer?! One of my chief gripes with automobiles is the godawful amount of noise they continually generate. Hardly a day goes by without the question “Do they have to be so damn loud?” springing to my lips. Aside from that, I still remember going to speech meets in high school (late ’70s) and actually winning trophies with a speech about the harmful nature of our Car Culture. A freind of mine had died that year driving his offroad truck, and it made me think very hard about what cars are and aren’t good for. These days, I do consider myself to be at war with The Car (or cars, whatever), but no, this does not mean that I want to wipe them from the planet (I still own one, but only use it when necessary – less and less lately). Winning a war means gaining control of the conflict and being able to dictate terms to the other side. So far, the Car Culture has been dictating most, if not all, of the terms. We can change that.

joeb
Guest
joeb

An OPB program last night, I didn’t catch which one, talked about America’s transportation and energy issues. I didn’t watch all of it, but what I saw was bleak. Transportation infrastructure nationwide, especially bridges, is nearing the end of serviceable life. Of course there is no money to repair roads. Road user fees may be a good free market solution… that will never be allowed to happen. Government subsidies will continue to hide the cost of transportation from consumers who will continue to complain about high taxes. Maybe China will take ownership of more of our roads and bridges.

Corn growers in the Midwest lobby for ethanol (E85) requirements for cars. Corn ethanol is higher carbon content than fossils, the fertilizers and pesticides are horrible, GM gets subsidies and tax breaks for manufacturing cars that use E85, but no service stations sell the stuff and food crop shortages increasingly require foreign imports of agriculture products from fields formally known as carbon-absorbing rain forests.
WE’RE SCREWED.

Of course, none of this is new. We all know about it, but to see this program string it all together was really disturbing.

Oh, and I just finished reading Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road”. Sheesh!

Joe
Guest
Joe

Warning sticker inside the car, may cause
heart disease!

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

I don’t think the analogy has much merit because the utilitarian value of the automobile is great, while the utilitarian value of an automobile is enormous. For instance, in much of our state a lack of access to a personal vehicle effectively eliminates your access to the labor market. I remain of the opinion that bicycle transportation is a great lifestyle choice for many, but not most individuals. The comparison I would make would be between autos based on the internal combustion engine versus autos based on electrical systems.

mabsf
Guest
mabsf

I find it scary that in only a hundred years we got so dependent on one technology that we can’t imagine life without it anymore. It influenced every aspect of our life from city planning to health. I do think that most individuals could participate in a car-light lifestyle by overcoming the social isolation that cars put us in – often imagined inconvenience and the fear of being indebted stops us from asking the neighbors/friends for rides…
Biking might be not always be the solution, but we can share rides to work & play and use public transportation when possible!

GG
Guest
GG

Argh! Driving is the new smoking. Or, cars are the new cigarettes. I’ve always refrained from commenting on your phrase but I can’t this time!

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

“Argh! Driving is the new smoking. Or, cars are the new cigarettes.”

I agree GG. that’s been bugging me ever since I wrote that headline.

I’ve changed it. thanks for the comment.

Andy B from Jersey
Guest

As drugs can cure diseases there are many who abuse them. It’s called drug abuse.

Same with the car. I have a fun little sports car. I use it to go out on the weekends, to go hiking in remote locations or other places that would be difficult to get to in a practical, timely manner. I even, dare I say, like to just go for a drive in the countryside every once in a while.

However, I do not “abuse” my car (or the privilege of having one), like an alcoholic might abuse alcohol. I do not use it to go to work, school, store and most other nearby locations where my bicycle (or walking or transit) is clearly a better more efficient choice. Come the weekend, I actually look forward to the “pleasure” of driving since I do it so rarely, just like I look towards the pleasure of a fine beer that I drink only occasionally.

Mark C
Guest
Mark C

I agree with mabsf. Cars have their place, it’s just that they’re way, way, overused – especially in Portland where other alternatives are easily available. An able-bodied person using a car to go a mile or two to the bank or post office (especially on a day like today) is like using a sledgehammer on a thumbtack. If everyone would just stop and ask themselves if a car is really necessary before leaving the house, instead of just automatically grabbing the keys, things would improve significantly.

Mark Allyn
Guest

This reminds me of the ‘CARS STINK’ stencils that I saw on the bike lanes on SE Belmont Ave back in 03 and 04.

Any one else remember those?

Mark

Maculsay
Guest
Maculsay

@joeb #8

That was Frontline, episode “Heat”. Watch it anytime on http://www.opb.org/television/# and navigate to Frontline on demand. It was a pretty good show, and good thing I didn’t have any razor blades near me while watching it. On the other hand, makes me pretty damn proud to be carfree most of this decade…

Ian
Guest
Ian

Negative pressure will not get people to change. By showing people how bad their driving habits are, they will only be made to feel guilty and therefore resent those putting pressure on them to change their habits. By linking driving to the addicting habit of smoking you are essentially creating an atmosphere of animosity where people cannot give up their car, not because it is a habit, but because it is a necessity. How do you tell people who live miles and miles from their job with no access to public transportation and no money to move closer that they are essentially killing themselves and others out of ignorance? The most you can hope for is to change policy decisions to give people more access to public transit and positively reinforce the image of cycling as a form of transportation by showing how great the act of cycling can be, not how bad the act of driving is.

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

“Negative pressure will not get people to change.”

Ian,
thanks for your comment.

I just want everyone to realize that this is a concept I like to think about simply as a way to start conversation.

“Cars are the new cigarettes” and the editorial above does not reflect my general style of advocacy (as anyone who knows me well can attest).

I think it’s interesting to look at the history of these to cultural “habits” in order to notice their similarities. that is all.

matt picio
Guest

Ian (#18) – Not quite true. While I’ll agree that negative pressure is not the best tactic, negative pressure can and does get people to change. Many smokers stopped not because of health reasons but due to the enormous amount of social pressure from all corners of society. In the last decade, the tobacco industry has had their “happy smoking” advertisements and mascots (Joe Camel, anyone?) removed and replaced by warnings, and hard-hitting anti-smoking ads. Friends, neighbors and families ask people not to smoke, smoking has been banned from the workplace, restaurants (in many cities, and next year in Portland) and public buildings.

Dedicated smokers have been vocal in their opposition to this massive negative pressure, but it *has* worked, whether for good or ill.

Joe
Guest
Joe

Back in the day in SF, they use to have shirts that said ” your car stinks ”

ONE LESS CAR stuff! ohh with this gas lowering in price watch how much we see people just driving more.. sure i own a car, just feel driving these days is abused!

Velo Vanguard
Guest
Velo Vanguard

Yeah, it’s just plain wrong to say that negative pressure will not get people to change. It does, and ironically – as Matt points out – smoking is a *fantastic* example of such effectiveness. Duh.

Some people just can’t stand any push-back to the status quo. You know, like that uppity one running for President.

“I don’t think the analogy has much merit because the utilitarian value of the automobile is great, while the utilitarian value of an automobile is enormous.”

Very wise. Things are never analogous when they are the same. Kidding.

Actually, one of the reasons cigarettes hung on so long is that the corporate world knew they had utility. They were shown to have a stimulant effect – you’ve heard of nicotine, right? – that speeds up cognition and increases worker productivity. Sure, take that 7 minute (average time to smoke a manufactured cigarette) smoke break and come back ready to work!

poser
Guest
poser

GG and Jonathan – any good marketing pro will tell you that grammatically correct phrases aren’t always the best phrase to use.

“Cars are the new smoking” is the catchiest phrase of the three. It’s just a fact. Produce all three phrases as t-shirts and bike-stickers and see which one sells the most. I predict that “Cars are the new smoking” would outsell the other two combined (except among former English majors).

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

“any good marketing pro will tell you that grammatically correct phrases aren’t always the best phrase to use.”

argh… you’re right poser.. that was sort of my hunch, but I caved into grammar.

maybe i’ll do a flip-flop and change it back… i’ll certainly put more thought into it the next time I use it or when I start making stickers and shirts ;-).

Drewid
Guest
Drewid

The analogy of driving to cigarettes is appropriate. Many in health community have been trying for years to label all the trauma on the road as the nations major health emergency. With 45 thousand killed in car crashes and 2 to 3 million people injured every year in this country, it ranks as the leading cause of trauma; just ahead of gun violence.

Trauma is a disease that affects us all. Very few car crashes can be regarded as accidents. In time (and not soon enough) the public will wake up to this.

Vance
Guest

If you don’t like cars, don’t drive one. If you don’t like cigarettes, don’t smoke them. Seems pretty simple to me. I fail to see what business one has in the personal affairs of others.

Catchy analogy though. Really.

Joe
Guest
Joe

Please leave the bad grammer for me 🙂
hehe, stickers? shirts? nice!!

Robert Broughton
Guest

“Cars have their place, just like cigarettes have their place. There’s nothing wrong with them, the problem is with us.”

Nonsense. There is a LOT wrong with cigarettes.

red hippie
Guest
red hippie

I ride my bike to and from work 5 days a week and mostly walk for groceries and the like, but I’ll fight you to death if you try and take my car away. To me Car=Personal freedom.

Peace

bahueh
Guest
bahueh

Velo Vanguard…your knowledge of the smoking and anti-smoking lobby is very limited, as is your knowledge of how smoking is INCREASING in many other parts of the world (the same places a higher % of people ride bicycles too).

negative pressure didn’t work towards a reduction in adult smoking prevalence…unless you’re referring to pressure from the AMA and medical establishment who received money from the NIH to study the long term outcomes of tobacco use…then passed along those findings to clinicians who then participated in created clinical diagnoses and treatment guidelines amongst themselves. do you think “negative pressure” is included in those guidelines?
1/5th of the US population still smokes..down from 42% about 50 years ago, so how well exactly do you think its working? a 20% reduction is NOT a successful intervention technique by any measure.

education is working, but that really doesnt’ fall under the auspice of “negative pressure”…

cigarettes are still “hanging on” you probably just personally don’t see them much I’m guessing…out of sight, out of mind. You’re welcome to come visit the COPD ward at my hospital…see how many people _aren’t_ in there gasping for their last breath…and wanting a cigarette at the same time.
keeps a lot of people employed…

cars aren’t going away until people are financially penalized to drive them…more than 4$/gal gas…

Ian
Guest
Ian

In response to post # 20.

Anti-Smoking ads do not work. If they did, why are young people still smoking in great numbers despite all the available information telling them not to? A study at the beginning of this past summer by the American Journal for Public Health actually found that public service ads aimed at getting kids not to smoke are actually having the opposite effect. Hard numbers are probably hard to come by regarding the lack of an impact that negative pressure has in effecting change, but its something that I think taps into human nature and everyone can think of times when the line between constructive criticism and negative criticism has been blurred.

I don’t think it has anything to do with pushing against the status quo. Changing societal norms can be done, for sure. But there are better ways to do it than highlighting what someone is doing wrong and instead focusing on what they could do better.

Velo Vanguard
Guest
Velo Vanguard

“If you don’t like cars, don’t drive one. If you don’t like cigarettes, don’t smoke them. Seems pretty simple to me. I fail to see what business one has in the personal affairs of others.”

Didn’t you read the piece? Cars pollute the atmosphere that we all share. They impose costs on me that their owners and operators do not pay for. I agree with the general sentiment that you should do what you want, but the limit to that is that it doesn’t hurt others. Driving cars does hurt others. Hazardous air pollutants from automobiles kill thousands of people in the US each year.

Bahueh, how do you know that my knowledge of the fact that smoking is increasing in other parts of the world is limited? I didn’t even mention that. At least read the post if you’re going to try that ‘gotcha’ style you’re so bad at.

jim
Guest
jim

I would rather live in a country where we are free to make our own decisions. Personally I don’t like smoke or the smell, and as much as I hate it when my neighbors smoke is coming in my windows I realize he is sitting on his own porch enjiying the freedom to smoke. Hopefully he will get cancer and die soon as I hate to close my windows on those hot summer days. I guess if it gets too bad I will just jump in my suburban and go for a long pleasure drive

jim
Guest
jim

How come you guys are on the net in the middle of a work day? Goofing off at work? Not working? Get paid to goof off? Whats your story?

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

This insinuation is ridiculous. I understand that you claim it’s a way to start a conversation, but it certainly has a holier than thou insinuation that isn’t going to be good for biking in Portland.

The main difference I see between cigarettes and driving is that for some people, in their life, driving is a necessity, and smoking is not.

Those who say that driving is never a necessity should consider their live luxurious. I’ve written on here before that I am the main medical caretaker for my grandfather, who was diagnosed with cancer. Being in that position requires me to drive, or use the driving abilities of someone else. I am not going to subject my 87 year old ill grandfather to public transportation or strap him to a bike.

Are cars overused? Absolutely. I don’t deny that. But to launch this sort of campaign is going too far.

Do you know how many other besides driving cause the things listed on the stop sign photo in your article? How many things do you do in your lives to cut down on other things?

Example: I don’t eat meat. I do drive a car. If I were to eat meat, and stop driving a car, my carbon foot print would be higher than my current lifestyle. (I’ve calculated it out).

Would I like to do both? Sure. Can I? Nope.

Would I be a better person to you if I stopped driving my car? What if I still ate meat? My impact on the world would be more negative, but I wouldn’t be driving!

The reason I first came to BikePortland.org is because I had a very bad experience with a cyclist who was driving into oncoming traffic. He then blocked my car and called me every name in the book simply because I was driving a car. This was unprovoked – I was simply driving down the road and he lucky that I was able to stop in time. I came here to reach out. I came here to talk, and to discuss.

But that doesn’t happen here if you are on the otherside of the issue. I’ve read so many posts that say things like “gasholes” and “you aren’t human once you sit in a car!” and “Fatties in steel cages!”

And now this. Jonathan, I usually respect your reporting even when I don’t respect the commenters. This is over the top.

I came here to reach out. I don’t know why I keep coming back.

Elly Blue (Columnist)
Member

While transportation is partly habit-related, it’s also not entirely a matter of choice, which the anonymous commenter above points out well, and which is the real difference between smoking and driving. Cars would only be like cigarettes if nonsmokers somehow had trouble finding work, or getting groceries, or seeing your friends, or getting your kids to school/parents to the doctor. Maybe this would have been a better analogy in the 1960s, when people smoked in hospitals, classrooms, offices, homes, etc, actually creating a non-choice public health hazard. In this day and age it doesn’t really work.

With all respect to Jonathan and the author of Traffic, I think the analogy is only useful in places where transportation choices exist more plentifully. We all lose out because there is no reasonable way for Anonymous to get his dad to the doctor without driving, or for people who are priced out of the inner city to find work, childcare, groceries, etc close to home. A lot of us can choose (and it’s not just based on income) but a lot of things are still cumbersome, even with a car, since we have spent the past 50 years plus in this country heavily subsidizing a highway-based transportation system at the expense of just about everythin else.

Anonymous, it sounds like what you might want to hear is a bunch of bikers apologizing for your bad experience on the road, it’ll never happen again, etc, but what I hope you actually see here is not just one post in a vacuum suggesting that people change their habits but rather that as part of a much broader, multi-faceted effort to understand how to make our transportation system work better for everyone, including you. Yes, that includes educating road users about safety, but that’s again only one part of what has to happen.

jack
Guest
jack

re: #35

/agreed

this analogy is laughable at best and hate mongering at worst

no way to see this as anything but a contribution to the us v. them mentality Jonathan claims to oppose, or did I miss the flier put out by the ‘share the road’/’eye to eye’ campaigns

however, to expect anything put a subjective view from this website will be dissapointed and the overall theme of promoting bikes as safe alternative transportation is beneficial to our community so bash on if it makes ya happy Jonathan just be open and realistic about your agenda

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

“this analogy is laughable at best and hate mongering at worst…

so bash on if it makes ya happy Jonathan just be open and realistic about your agenda”

wow. hate mongering? my agenda?

folks, I am sorry if some see this story as being my personal judgment against people who drive.

Let’s be clear:
— I drive a car and I have nothing against others that do the same thing.

— However, I think our over-reliance on cars and our cultural love-affair with them has done massive amounts of bad things to our world (understatement).

— I think the automobile lobby and the auto industry should be held more accountable for these bad things they’ve encouraged and exacerbated for decades.

— I think it’s long overdue that society begins to wonder about and question these bad things.

— I think it’s sad that my kids are afraid to cross a residential street near my house because so busy with cars going way too fast…a product of the culture i referenced above.

I could go on… the point is, I have some serious misgivings about the degree to which cars and car culture has infiltrated american life.

can you refute any of the things I mention in this comment?

Do you disagree that cars are a drag on our society in many ways?

Do you disagree that our entire culture has bent over way too much for cars for the last 100 years?

Do you disagree that cars kill and injure way more people than they should?

I have nothing against cars in and of themselves… but we’ve gone way beyond using them responsibly in this country… so much so that I have to resort to provocative phrases to get anyone’s attention.

Just like I have no problem smoking a cigarette if I feel like it, but society shouldn’t have to deal with lung-cancer from chain smokers and kids getting asthma from second-hand smoke?

my agenda is for more balance in our transportation systems and for more healthy, happy people and less injuries and deaths. that’s all.

—– Now, who wants to buy some stickers? ;-).

Val
Guest
Val

You got it right Jonathan – I fully agree with the sentiment, and I smoke. I also drive sometimes. I try to do these things conciously and concientiously, and to keep them within what I consider reasonable limits. I’ll be checking into the stickers, and no, they don’t make me feel hated.

Joe
Guest
Joe

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
I agree with you 100%, since i have kids
that don’t seem to understand why they can’t ride in the bike lane yet! red light runners, people talking on cells. Im not anti-car, but we need to wake up and make a change. my girls are not like most kids. * growing up with the windows rolled up *

jack
Guest
jack

re: #38

— I drive a car and I have nothing against others that do the same thing.

Then why the sensationalist title and a comparison to a habit that has no redeeming functional utilization. This is also a direct gut shot to any real support of the ‘share the road’ message that is about equality on our roadways not I can’t wait till your gone you evil deathmachine loving bastages.

— However, I think our over-reliance on cars and our cultural love-affair with them has done massive amounts of bad things to our world (understatement).

No argument there, but I would argue that painting this black and white is not the complete story. Without the ‘deathmachines’ embracement our society has displayed for the last 60+ years there would not be the level of economic, educational, cultural, and technological growth which is unparelled in human history – good and bad, to look at only one facet is to promote ignorance and in this case to further a subjective agenda

— I think the automobile lobby and the auto industry should be held more accountable for these bad things they’ve encouraged and exacerbated for decades.

agreed, but I think this avoids the reality that to a significant degree production and funded r&d is dictated by demand by consumers, by our choices when buying cars, it’s easy to blame the lobbyists/ceo’s, but how often do we point in the mirror at ourselves and at our parents/grandparents generation in our outrage of the results of this industry

— I think it’s long overdue that society begins to wonder about and question these bad things.

agreed, but i dont think the only conclusion is that cars are to be done away with, even the wet dream of similar mode share as amsterdam/copenhagen doesn’t represent 100% bike/public transport method. Instead technology and policy changes should be affected to deal with this, cars dont = cigarettes current car technology + transportation policy + commuting choice = cigarettes

— I think it’s sad that my kids are afraid to cross a residential street near my house because so busy with cars going way too fast…a product of the culture i referenced above.

agreed, there are also numerous significant other causes for this reality that exist completely outside the car culture you point to – population growth, depersonalization of the stranger, self-centred cultural mores, attention deficit via video games/tv/adrenline sports habits of the current adult population, etc.

I could go on… the point is, I have some serious misgivings about the degree to which cars and car culture has infiltrated american life.

can you refute any of the things I mention in this comment? its not about whether your comments are right/wrong, its about your lack of a wholistic and objective assesment/potrayel of the current situation devoid of the priviledges your current life structure allows and the subjective lense your current job/lifestyle creates

Do you disagree that cars are a drag on our society in many ways?
nope, but I like ambulances when they save lives, firetrucks, cop cars (kinda anyway), food at the grocery store, medicine at the pharmacies, bikes/accessories at bike stores, beer everywhere (for the love of god do you want good beer to stop being easily purchased – thats frickin cruel man), and the degree of movement and the funtionality this brings to the common person lives (daycare, school choice, hikes in the gorge, job choice, going to see family on holidays, etc.)… how cool was it to have an affordable method to follow your wife this summer on the sprockettes tour, would that have been available to you without the embracement of the car culture you have so clearly demonized

Do you disagree that our entire culture has bent over way too much for cars for the last 100 years? Not an easy answer, and as I have tried to explain this is a very narrow view point of the evolution. Could we have the advancements in medicine and technology without having ‘bent over’ for the car culture? How does this change my evaluation of the ‘too much’ portion of your question? If we could brilliantly amend motor technology and public policy would it be sunshine and rainbows? Is the car culture evil or dysfunctional? Who is responsible for the current structures? And what is the best route out of the current structures while maintaining the positives that this transportation mode allows for? Your title and story boil this issue to a very narrow summary, and that was the stimulus for my original comments

Do you disagree that cars kill and injure way more people than they should?

of course, but I tell you what, take that number and subtract the number of lives that are saved by emergency responders and if it were possible quantify the illnesses that are ended/ prevented by access to healthy food/medicine. what is the net number? An even better question is how do we reduce the number contributing to death/injury while boosting the number contributing to the saved/prevented

I have a great deal of respect for your work in advocating for a very positive transportation methodology, I enjoy reading the stories regarding events that promote a healthy lifestyle/commute choice/and hobby. the subject of this post is over the line, counter productive, and yes among the fringe of the cycling community can be raised as a focul point to express ignorant hate. it is a direct contribution to the ‘us v. them’ you regularly rail against in the mainstream media, this piece merely puts on the other side of the coin. i’d call you on it in your living room as i have here. this site is a virtual representation of you and your beliefs, so how does a reader understand this thread and correlate that understanding to the threads about ‘sharing the road’, ‘eye to eye’, ‘us v them’?

Coyote
Guest
Coyote

Jack, nice swordsmanship. Slice off a sentence, and respond with two paragraphs. is it a normal sword or a troll’s cleaver?

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

Jack,

I hear your points. I wish we were having this exchange in person so it was easier for me to explain my perspective.

A few things I want to address.

First; you’ve missed my point that I’ve got nothing against responsible car use.

Yes, I love having a car for a road trip with my family. Yes, I love emergency vehicles. NOTE: I have not said I believe motor vehicles are evil.

Also, I still don’t quite agree with your connection that this article is in conflict with my articles saying we should not have an “us vs. them” mentality when thinking about our transportation system.

I’m just saying we should all have the right to safe and efficient travel… but cars and the culture/industry/lobby that supports them has made that impossible.

I’m glad you’re a loyal reader and I hope you stick around and continue to read and comment.

Opus the Poet
Guest

I’m putting a link to this post in my blog, more people need to read this. I personally love cars, but I quit driving in 1995 because it wasn’t fun any more, just another chore I had to do (transportation as another job). If people would use some sense in their transportation choices and only used private motor vehicles when there was no other logical choice, then the roads would be a whole lot less crowded, and driving would be fun again. But since the city took my car away after it had been parked for 5 years I really don’t have the choice any more, I have to use public transit and ride my bike.

Zaphod
Guest
Zaphod

I respectfully disagree with Jack (#41) but his points are well articulated and thought out. But this gets at the fundamental issues with what cars have done. Car culture is on the surface *and* deep within and then deeper still.

What did we have prior to the car? Our cities and towns were very compact with additional dense circles radiating from train stops. That was how it was. In that environment, we were a fairly tight society as a necessity, a reality of the time. This created both good and bad aspects of community. But community existed in a real tangible way.

The car has singlehandedly rearchitected the entire nation (never mind the world) such that we are spread out into suburban and exurban spaces. We’ve lived this way for enough time that conceiving the old way of cities, towns and villages is difficult. Supposing one wanted to attempt to design like in days past? Given how the land has been sliced, this is effectively impossible without calling upon eminent domain – a rather drastic measure. So we’re now working in the reality of lots of low density housing and lack of mixed use for much of the country.

Living some distance away from your neighbor changes the level of interaction and depth of *community* such that we retreat into our homes. A casual hello from a neighbor is impossible when the car rolls right into the garage and the door automatically closes behind.

So it is my opinion that the ills of driving not only have immediate consequences (accidents, smog, noise, stress, commute times, costs to operate, cost of infrastructure) and physical ramifications (restructuring of land use) there also are societal costs that change how we behave as a society. It’s wayyy worse than smoking.

Kt
Guest
Kt

Coyote, I don’t think you read Jonathan’s post that Jack is replying to.

He didn’t slice and dice, he answered the questions put to him– questions that were put to all of us.

Personally, I agree with Jack. And Eileen.

Yes, I ride…. but I also drive. I’ve never smoked, but now Jonathan is making me feel like a filthy smoker for driving.

Hey, does it make it all better if I apologize to the smokers in the room for calling them filthy?

Velo Vanguard
Guest
Velo Vanguard

“I’ve never smoked, but now Jonathan is making me feel like a filthy smoker for driving.”

This is the essence of what is causing people to react so strongly to this post. People know that their choice to drive has costs to others that they are getting away with not paying. And they feel guilty. And they don’t like people pointing it out because if they admit this they will have to change their lifestyle and, hey, cars have done some good things and it’s not all my fault – why should I be made to feel like a hypocrite? Well, Jonathan’s telling it like it is. You gotta deal with your own emotions.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Elly – Never once asked for an apology. The incident I was involved with signified that there were bigger issues between cyclists and motorists that needed to be discussed with and I came here to do that. I included that info in my post in case people wondered why the heck I was on a biking blog when I don’t actually bike.

Kt – Agree with you completely. I would never smoke, and I think Jonathan’s phrasing implies that I am a hypocrite for driving but that thinking smoking is filthy. Again for me, it comes down to the fact that smoking is never a necessity, while sometimes for some people, driving is.

Zaphod – The car did not singlehandedly rearchitect the entire nation. Suburbs were created as the direct result of the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial revolution came about as technology increased for Transportation, but also just as much for agriculture and manufacturing. Since these advancements occurred in the city, people moved away and created “suburbs” to avoid the smog created by the plants. Again – MUCH MORE than car plants, it was the whole rise of technology for a multitude of things. Cars are in no way single handedly responsible for this. Alot of these technologies are really important for the development of society, including the car.

So – with each good thing generally comes something bad.

This takes me back to my issue with Jonathan’s claim that Cars are the new Cigarettes, or smoking, or however it eventually ends up. 😉 If that is going to be your line of thinking, Then you really should have a slew of stickers which read things like “Meat is the new smoking” or “Construction is the new smoking” or “Technology is the new smoking”… or if you really want to be honest about it “Humans are the new smoking”… because the fact of the matter is that it really is our inability to use everything that has an impact on the earth responsibly that is the true problem.

There are plenty of things on this earth that have just as big of a negative impact as cars do – And when you single out cars there are going to be alot of people, myself included, who feel that this perpetuates the same us vs. them mentality that you complain about the rest of the media instigating.

jack
Guest
jack

re: #42

ha, I hear ya coyote, passion and a platform tends to make me a bit wordy – or as I would hear from my high school buddies ‘shut up ya damn tree huggin hippy and get me another beer’ as for the troll comment, I’m relatively ignorant of blog/comment society so my response may fit the definition, dont know, but it was an honest reaction without malicious intent and as kt mentioned i was doing a comprehesive inline response to Jonathan, not cherry picking lines I could manipulate

if the complexity surrounding this issue has peaked anyones interest i would really recommend some research on the ‘deep ecology’ movement. i had the luck of being introduced to this concept/ideology many years ago and it dramatically shifted my world view, in particular the human/nature interaction and imbalance that currently exists

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[…] thing to do, but over time the public perception changed. Jonathan Maus of Bike Portland wonders if this shift in thinking might now by occurring towards automobiles. And the Wall Street Journal reports the largest year on […]