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Car-free to Car-filled and Back to Car-free

3 Jun. 2011 Posted by Hannah Mich in cars, car-free, transportation, public transit
cars, automobiles, transportation, car-free

Although some may think our country unexpectedly turned into a car-loving nation, it was actually very strategically planned. With powerful automobile giants like GM, legislation, national security and a decline in city quality of living, cars and highways thrived and public transportation was short-handed.

Unfortunately as we went from a car-free nation to a car-filled nation, the mindset that cars are far superior and a necessity to everyday living rapidly took hold. We became a nation that dreamed of living in suburbia with a car; regardless of the future consequences. Because our leaders supported and praised this new way of life, and companies were showing us commercials and advertisement displaying happiness and freedom along side a car, we bought into it as part of the “American dream”.

But no one talked about emissions, traffic, noise, gas price fluctuations and costly road construction and maintenance. Of course no system or idea is perfect, but a variety of transportation options that are efficient and economical would have prevented many of these problems and given us much more freedom then what we think we have with the car.

For example, many believe that public transportation is going to take away the freedom to go where they want to when they want to go. However, doesn’t traffic or time of day, gas prices, parking and the stress of driving sometimes stop you from going wherever you want to whenever you want to go? I believe for many that answer is yes. If we had the option to ride a bus, train, cable car or bike then that would actually improve transportation and our movement patterns. The car was once a key to “freedom” of movement, but it has now become a “lock”.

City development and suburbs were and continue to be built based on the idea that the automobile is the end all be all of transportation. We have created and continue to create inefficient cities and suburbs that cater to automobiles. We created segregation between businesses and residents; developed highways instead of sidewalks and, therefore, have places most conveniently navigated by automobile. Not to mention the development of driveways, two and three car garages and parking lot after parking lot.

We were promised freedom, and clean and safe communities that were better than those communities we left in the city- an overall better quality of life. Instead we have two and three hour commutes, noise, pollution and communities segregated by massive highways. We need to redefine transportation within and in between our communities or suburbs. We need a balance between automobiles, public transportation, walking and biking to bring about safer, healthier neighborhoods.

Although this seems virtually impossible to the average American, countries and cities have been living this way for centuries. Some even exist in the United States like Mackinac Island, which banned motorized vehicles in 1898. In many European cities such as Vauban, Germany, the automobile is less prevalent due to legislation and community development such as "car-free" areas. The challenge is not whether we can live with “car-free” areas or cities; instead the challenge is changing our mindset about transportation. And changing our ideology about our current way of life, or habits, which takes far longer to accomplish than switching over to predominantly public transportation; but it is the first step needed in order to do so.

Call To Action: 

Evaluate and shift your transportation habits
Get involved with your community development
Reduce the number of cars you own

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