Cars Kill Cities (from progressive transport’s blog)

HERE IS A STORY WE FOUND ON THE NET AS IT APPEARED ON THE 25TH OF JANUARY THIS YEAR.

60 cars 60 bike riders 60 bus pax in munster

OK, I’m finally getting a chance to make another post.  I have temporarily relocated to Mountain View, CA and have been up to my eyeballs in work, both ‘real’ work and research work.  It’s nice to get back to this blog.

Cars do not belong in cities.  A standard American sedan can comfortably hold 4+ adults w/ luggage, can travel in excess of 100 miles per hour, and can travel 300+ miles at a time without stopping to refuel.  These are all great things if you are traveling long distances between cities.  If you are going by yourself to pickup your dry cleaning, then cars are insanely over-engineered for the task.  It’s like hammering in a nail with a diesel-powered pile driver.   To achieve all these feats (high capacity, high speed, and long range driving), cars must be large and powered by fossil fuels.  So when you get a few hundred (or thousand) cars squeezed onto narrow city streets, you are left with snarled traffic and stifling smog.

Even if you ignore the pollution, cars simply take up too much space.   Next time you are stuck in traffic behind what seems like a million cars, try to imagine if all those cars where replaced by pedestrians or bike riders.  Suddenly, the congestion is gone.

60 Cars, 60 Bike Riders, and 60 Bus Passengers in Munster, Germany.

But why am I complaining about traffic?  Traffic only affects those stuck in it, right?  Once all cars go electric, essentially eliminating inter-city air pollution, then there will be no more problems for pedestrians, right?  Wrong!!  Probably the biggest problem with cars in cities is that they require huge amounts of land for storage (a.k.a. parking).  Here is a photo of Midtown Atlanta between 5th street and 12th street.  This is one of the densest and most pedestrian-friendly ares in the entire state of Georgia.  The red blocks indicate parcels of land that are 100% dedicated to car storage.

red marks amount of land taken up by parking in atlanta

Red Squares Indicate Land that is 100% Dedicated to Parking in Midtown Atlanta

Dedicating all this land to car storage basically reduces the density by about half, doubles the average distance between locations, and reduces walkability.  Throw in the 16-lane interstate and the 45+ mph traffic on most of these streets, it becomes exceedingly hard to believe that this is one of the most walkable areas in the entire state.  Such is life for pedestrians in a car-dominated city.

It wasn’t always this way.  Atlanta, like all cities, used to be walkable and people actually lived IN the city instead of commuting 50 miles every day.  But as more people moved away from the city, the more Atlanta had to become like a suburb, being retrofitted to handle all the automobile infrastructure required by a million 40 hour-a-week temporary citizens.  The result of this retrofit is a wasteland of asphalt and isolated neighborhoods, a slow decimation that has rolled along since the innovation of the automobile.

Contrary to how it may sound, I do not want to rid the earth of cars.  I just want to use them smarter.  Do you really need a 2-ton vehicle to pickup your dry-cleaning?  Probably not.  Although I do see the appeal in loading a family of 6 into an SUV and traveling to Florida for vacation.  That is a totally reasonable use of an automobile.  What I really want  is clean, walkable, safe, affordable, and family-friendly cities and towns.  In a strange way, I kind of want to live in Mayberry.

In the next post, I promise to discuss a few ideas that may get us a little closer to this goal

3 responses to “Cars Kill Cities (from progressive transport’s blog)

  1. With the price of gas what it is now, I use my car as little as possible. My car is four and a half years old, and I only have 39,000 miles on it, and most of those are from our 12- hour drives up the East Coast to Boston.

  2. Very wise words. It’s only a few K’s from one end of my suburb (surry hills in sydney) to the other and everything I need is within it yet I still hardly walk because I test cars. I have to actually go out for a walk on purpose. Our mayor is potty about people getting out of their cars and onto bike and walking paths or taking the light rail or buses. But the rich would rather take their cars. They are not keen on being seen with the sweaty masses. Sad really isn’t it?

  3. Three years ago we moved to an area where I can walk to my doctor, my dentist, the library, restaurants, shops, grocery markets, drug stores. It is fabulous! That’s the way life should be. Whatever happened to the idea of planned communities that were supposed to envision this very thing?

Tell us what you think. We promise to reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s