Car free -- empowered or subjugated?
I am writing as a car user, who feels supportive of the idea and practice of being car-free. I think that every one here agrees that the dominant political groups and business are hard at work preserving, maintaining and further entrenching the car way of life. From the late 1940’s on, the car has grown in prominence in the American way of life. Billions of dollars have been spent over the past 65 years on getting consumers to buy into the idea of cars.
Now because of the long-predicted decrease in oil supply and the following rise in gas prices, some people are rethinking that way of life. Not surprisingly it seems that those not exposed to the long-term car mania are the best at doing without cars. Some cases of the car free transcend age and are bound more to economics. So in many ways the car-free movement is a movement of the young and the economically marginalized or both. Both of these groups have little political or economic clout.
So again I think that most people here -- lurkers, trolls and the car-free -- would agree that more car trip-replacing bike use is better. Even the car-radicals would have to admit that more car trip-replacing bikes mean less of a demand on gas and therefore lower prices for them.
Some of the truly car-free have a, “make you feel guilty for using a car”, rhetorical style. And I think that that can be persuasive in the long term. The power of guilt and pity cannot be underestimated. Ever wonder how the Romans decided that killing people in the coliseum for entertainment was no longer a fun activity? Guilt and pity. When you have no money, and no political clout what else is there?
There are of course other good reasons to turn toward bicycles instead of cars. From the discipline of car-free ness there are many overwhelming advantages for the individual, rich or poor young or old, man and woman.
One of the largest factors in the cycling craze of the 1890 – 1910 was the liberating effect of cycling for women. They no longer needed to depend on a man to ready a horse for a short four mile journey. It also could allow the worker transportation when cars where prohibitively expensive.
So if the car free do so based on altruistic reasons the response is biking is better for the environment, better for health and perhaps being better economic and resource stewards. They see car use as for the lazy, consumer who just does what he has been taught and therefore has chosen of his own free-will. It would follow that the altruistic car-free person would like to get others to join in because it would be even better for the environment, health and economically, not to mention liberate a car-bound and add them to the clout of the car free.
So the car bound person has two choices do nothing or change. They are bombarded with messages about car superiority on the tv, radio, in songs and movies, at work and at play even friends and relatives support their car use. So the do nothing choice looks damn good. It is so good in fact that they don’t really even chose car-use it is simply accepted. Drive the kid a block to the bus—no issue.
Or they can change. This entails buying new stuff, making more time provisions, going against the status quo, moving, getting a new job, consider a reduction in the number of dependants, etc.
I have seen other good arguments, like your polluting car makes bad crap that goes into my biking lung. So like cigarettes that are banned inside, cars should only be used inside of private, enclosed facilities. That is true and compelling, but not likely to cause someone to sell there car.
I do pity car users and think that they should be more self reflexive when it comes to car use. I pity them because they think that it is ok to spend 2 weeks a year in a small box getting to and from work. In fact they seem to like it. I pity them because they have to spend a lot of money on gas. I pity them because 40,000 willing give up their lives each year, since they mostly knew the risks associated with car use. I pity them as they grow fat, impotent and deceased behind the wheel. I pity the kids at the playground pretend driving. I pity the must use a car for work person who does not even get fully compensated for his car use for the company. Yes these gullible individuals made a choice or did they? They seem more like the kids that I recently saw on tv that responded to the question, “which would you rather have for breakfast”, by “choosing” the rock with spider man stickers on it rather than a banana.
So do you see being car free as empowering? Or do you feel more subjugated by the powers that be?