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Old 05-10-02, 10:48 AM   #1
Oxymoron
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You Will Drive... (insert evil laugh here)

I was thinking about this chicken or the egg problem: Americans sometimes HAVE to drive often because there is no safe way to bike, distances are too far, no public transit, etc. But because we drive, there is no demand for public transit or sidewalks etc. So do we drive because there is no choice, or is there no choice because we drive?

In Europe there is a choice. Was that system put in place despite everyone wanting to drive, or did the public not want to drive and demanded it. Maybe gov't regulations made driving inconvenient and then the they wanted public transit. If we were to put in a train system as comprehensive as Europe's, depite the costs, would it get used? Is this just an infrastructure and funding problem for the US, or are there inherent differences in the cultures of Europe and the US leading to the non-feasablility of public transit, ever.

It's a sad thought, but I think that outside of massive gas shortages, people will keep driving. Even sadder to cyclists (but great for air quality) is the idea of non-polluting, non-petroleum cars. Then there would be even less incentive to not drive. What little public transit we have would be scrapped, and no one would ever understand why anyone would want to bike or take the bus. But cars would still be expensive, sprawl would worsen along with traffic congestion, and there would be twice as many cars to run me over. I'll bet Europe will keep their train system, no matter what fuel cars run on. Sometimes it's as much an issue of what social environment one wants to live in, as what the vehilcle does to the natural environment.

European comments greatly appreciated on this.

Clay
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Old 05-10-02, 11:22 AM   #2
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From a UK perspective, we have the advantage of a compact geography which is easier to serve by trains, and historically much of our urban growth coincided with the building of the railways, before cars were invented. Our rail system is far from wonderful, and suffered a lot from cuts in the 60's (Beeching), but I'm glad we've got it.

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Old 05-10-02, 12:09 PM   #3
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Read "Asphalt Nation" by Jane Holtz Kay. She explains why Europe chose a different path.

1) Allied bombing destroyed darn near everything so railroads were all they had left.

2) Cities are 1000+ years old and thus not really suited to automobiles.

3) As part of the rebuilding after WWII european countries, realizing that transportation of people and goods is vital to economic stability, created national transportation plans.

4) The USA failed to create a transportation plan so private enterprise created their own. During WWII General Motors, Mac Truck, Firestone Tire, and Shell Oil made rediculous amounts of money. Did they use this money to improve their products and companies? No. They created a dummy company called American City Lines and used it to buy out and shut down competing forms of transportation... mostly trollies and passenger trains, thus depriving Americans of any form of transport other than motorcars.
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Old 05-10-02, 01:08 PM   #4
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Oh yeah, I knew that. I forgot about that whole buyout of the trolley lines thing. Thanks for bringing up "Asphalt Nation"--I love it when people mention it here, but not only have I read it, I was tested on it (hmmm, wonder how I did). Had to write some essays I think. It's been several years since I read the whole thing, but I got it back out recently an actually started a thread on it here. Maybe I should have looked at it again more carefully before I started this thread--I probably could have answered my own question--but then I wouldn't get any input from anyone else.

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Old 05-10-02, 03:52 PM   #5
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Next week Ill be travelling around the country with brother+his wife, visiting friends. For this travelling, Im renting a car. It works out so much cheaper than rail tickets for the 3 of us.
Not owning a car, I tend to make transport decisions on a case by case basis, and take the most appropriate method.
Car free doent mean car-less.
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Old 05-11-02, 08:34 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by cycletourist
2) Cities are 1000+ years old and thus not really suited to automobiles.
Evidence of this is in America. A few years ago 6 of use went to Boston (north of about 30 miles, don't remember the town) and of course went into Boston one evening to see it. Driving around Boston was horrible. Some of the older parts of the city I could hardly get the minivan through some of the turns because of the streets and parked cars. I know if I lived there (never happen, but for other reasons) I would use alternate transportation. This also brings up an interesting point. With 6 of use (training class) we could use one minivan that about 23 MPG. If we had to use cars, we would have had to use 2, and 2 cars at say 30 MPG would average only 15 MPG. We could not use a sub compact due to the amount of lugage (4 were female and had way more lugage than the males, don't start a thread on that, it was just a fact) so mid-size was the best we could have done.
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Old 05-11-02, 08:57 AM   #7
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Originally posted by cycletourist
Cities are 1000+ years old and thus not really suited to automobiles.
1000+ year old cities in the USA? I don't believe there are any.

The newer cities are very obvious, especially looking at a map. Most of the roads are on a N/S or E/W grid. Pretty boring to ride on.
As stated in another post, Boston is awful to drive in - there's no rhyme or reason to the roads. Most were cart paths that were converted to roads later on.

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Old 05-12-02, 09:16 PM   #8
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Someone has to buck the system. Following the crowd never advances mankind.
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