The other day, I was reading "The Invisible Class" about a messenger in Chicago. In it he musses about a city without cars and how cars change the landscape of the city.
Then I got to thinking about how this situation of "car culture" came about.
The auto vehicle has many advantages to other forms of transportation. It can travel over distances relatively fast with no effort from the body. It can be used to carry very large loads over any distance, short or long. Trains, busses, and bicycles do not have this kind of flexibility. They can be made to do this, but at the expense of effort or loss of flexibiltity. The car is really a personal transportation device that can do most anything.
I do not think that anyone can doubt the negative impact that the car has on the city or on human living in general. Just look around next time you are sitting at a busy arterial intersection or traffic jam and think of the number of gallons of gasoline are just sitting on the road. I could go further, but there are other threads that deal with just this issue.
The problems I see with the efforts by cities and activists are that they are trying to convince people to ditch their vehicles for transportation options that are less efficient (from the time and flexibility aspect). Some of us, many on this forum, have found reasons for ditching the car (in some instances) that trump the arguments of time efficiency.
So here is the question: How to get people to drop an environmentally damaging, but incredibly flexible, personal transportation vehicle in favor of a less flexible but more environmentally friendly (not just pollution but social environment as well) vehicle (ie bicycle), or an even less flexible and not even personal vehicle (ie mass transit)?
Whatever solution, it has to start in a modern city. Car free cities takes the liberty of starting a city from scratch, but that is not an option. Not only the city centers have to be considered, but the suburban centers and sprawl have to be considered as well.