1.2 million people were killed by them last year. 50 million people injured. Sounds like a lethal weapon? An AK-47 perhaps? For the answer just look out of your window. A car. Karl Benz must be turning in his grave, as little over a hundred years since its inception in rural Germany, combustion-driven vehicles have killed tens of millions of people. Not many weapons manufacturers could brag about figures like that.

Although road deaths have fallen in the UK recently, they are now the biggest threat to people aged 10-24, i.e. people such as us students. The WHO predicts that global road deaths will rise to 2.3 million a year by 2020, as more and more of the developing world joins the fray. And so they should expect to join the fray too. Cars are seen as potent symbols of progress, wealth, and of that all-important ‘freedom’. What a shame these dreams don’t really go much further than the advertising board.

The belief that cars create wealth is some respects, false. Cars, roads and motorways are extremely expensive to maintain, and divert much-needed public funds away from public transport. More importantly, oil imports are big drains on most developed economies; tellingly, Canada is the only G7 country which is a net exporter of oil. A large proportion of the profits from oil sales prop-up regimes of varying degrees of corruption and undesirability, such as Saudi Arabia, Congo and Angola, who then invest that money in purchasing our own companies from us. As such, Saudi Arabia already ‘owns’ 7% of America. For the last few decades, the American government has had to pour multi-billions into their ailing car industry just to keep it afloat, and that problem looks only set to escalate as the World plunges further into a recession. Not to worry, I suppose you can always escape your problems in your car, right?

The clichéd poster of a happy family driving off into the sunset has been at the forefront of advertising campaigns by the car industry since the very beginning. However the reality of most car journeys is merely routine or trivial – to and from work, to and from school, to and from the local shop.

The majority of these journeys could easily be substituted by bicycles or public transport, or simply by walking, were cities were planned and developed appropriately. And that’s just it: they’re not. Since the visionary architect Le Corbusier unveiled his modernist ‘Ville Radieuse’ in the 1920s, planners and politicians alike have been seduced by the dream of the car utopia.

There are no better examples of this than modern cities such as LA, Birmingham or Shanghai. Their unfolding stories deviate somewhat from the original glorious ideals. With their gargantuan urban motorways, inner city flyovers, ring-road systems and expansive car parks, all these cities are suffering immeasurably from problems of pollution, stress and alienation. Cars have broken down the very social fabric of these cities through their overriding spatial demands, and their visual, respiratory and noise pollution. What right-minded parent lets their children play out in the road these days?

Steets have merely become an annoyance, something to quickly scuttle through, from one sealed environment to another. Notoriously in LA for example, few people walk anywhere as everything is located so far away from each other. Far from ‘liberating’ the people, citizens are now shackled to the car, even if they only want to do simple day-to-day activities, such as buying their daily bread or visiting a friend. Further, the misconception is that drivers are the ones who chose the route at their whim. In fact, the policy of traffic planners has always been to restrict and control the movements of cars as they see fit – rather like red blood cells in the arteries of the body.[1]

Once outside the city, if you can escape the traffic jams, the car is heralded as the vehicle of exploration; the perfect tool for opening up our beloved unexplored countryside. Admittedly the car may indeed increase accessibility to some of these more remote areas, but does it not stink of hypocrisy to permanently tarmac over huge swathes of the countryside that we so dearly cherish, just so we can drive through in our cars once in a while? At the same time, these roads splice through our few remaining fragile ecosystems, cutting them up into yet smaller and smaller portions, putting serious strain on the ecosystems’ very ability to survive. And should the animals dare to venture across into another wildlife pocket, they face the very real threat of becoming roadkill, and one of the incalculable numbers of animals that have died in this manner.

However now it’s not only the animals and young people who should fear the car, because the ugly spectre of global warming has appeared upon our horizon. Realistically, carbon-neutral fuels look a long way off, and even with the automobile industry’s speculated efficiency improvements, the world’s fleet is expected to triple by 2050, making the overall task of mitigating humanity’s greatest threat a staggering prospect.

If that’s not a big enough problem in itself, it is believed by many experts that the world is entering the period of Peak Oil, where global oil reserves begin to dwindle and prices exponentially increase, as demand outstrips supply. As oil is the very bedrock of the global economy – the fallibility of which has been proven quite clearly recently – the last thing we want to do is to shake its foundations by chugging through our remaining reserves unnecessarily.

As well as being hideously resource inefficient, it’s not even immediately desirable to have millions of individual drivers on the road, especially when the massive quantity of individual drivers can create infuriating traffic jams. This follows the Government’s admission that road congestion in the UK has been worse than predicted, and that targets for reducing traffic jams by the end of the decade are unlikely to be met. This sparked off the Virgin Trains’ campaign, Business Brain Takes The Train. Why drive, when you can catch up on work, read a book, watch a film, or just rest?

It is bizarre to think, that at a time when the world has poured hundreds of billions into the misguided ‘War on Terror’, over 300,000 people have been killed on American roads alone. If a terrorist attack caused the death of 300,000 people (roughly a hundred times more people than were killed in the Twin Towers attack), there would be outrageous public outcry, and immediate and decisive action by the government to minimise the likelihood of such an atrocity ever occurring again. So, is it high-time for a ‘War on Cars’? Inside the offices of planners and urban designers that war has already begun. The move is on to design cities of the future which have minimal car usage, maximum public transport, and residential, work and leisure spaces intertwined.

The ambitious eco-city of Masdar, in the UAE – which is heralded as a sustainable blueprint for the future – will ban automobiles within the city; travel will instead be accomplished via public mass transit and personal rapid transit systems. The planned eco-city of Dongtan in China, will also minimise car use down to an absolute minimum.

However, with the muddled policies of Boris Johnson, the London Mayor, and Chris Loftus, laughably Environmental and Social Justice candidate in our very own University of Nottingham recent exective elections, both seemingly advocating the unfettered use of cars here in the UK, clearly politics is not facing up to the problem: the global car experiment has failed. The time has come to grow up, face our challenges coherently, and allow our planners the powers they need to save ourselves from one of humanity’s most blood-soaked inventions.

[1] Tolley, Rodney. Sustainable transport: planning for walking and cycling in urban environments.Woodhead Publishing, 2003. P.262


10 thoughts on “The Failure of the Car Experiment

  1. A little unrelated, but I think the idea that we are guided to take certain routes (‘red blood cells in the arteries of the body’) by the structures constituting our surroundings is an interesting one. I did a study of Trafalgar Square in London as part of my undergrad degree, and one of the documents I found online was a map commissioned when they were considering pedestrianising one side of the Square. It illustrates that despite how little we consider our subconscious actions, we are not alone in our experience of space and the decisions we make accordingly.

    Link to the map is here.

    • Hmm interesting. I think many people don’t appreciate the hard work some architects do, because if they do their job properly, you shouldn’t notice it.

      I reckon you can take the body analogy further; to the city as an ‘organism’, with the shopping centre as it’s beating heart. Unfortunately though, the modern organism is not healthy, what with clogged arteries (congestion), heart cancer (recession) and now, liver failure (banks?…)

  2. Pingback: The Failure of the Car Experiment

  3. Cars rarely kill people. People kill people. Same with guns, or knives, or even chopsticks! All these things are merely tools, it is people who carry the responsibility for their use.

    Also, the car is indeed all it has stood for, they are symbols of progress, wealth and freedom.

    ‘The belief that cars create wealth is some respects, false.’

    I dont think they create wealth as much as denote it, for some of the reasons that youve mentioned, as well as others. Cars are a status symbol, owning one says that you can afford their tax, MoT, insurance, petrol – so in other words the state of your car displays to others that you’re efficient in ‘providing.’

    Also, apart from limited manufacture, where they do create an industry and thus ‘wealth,’ it isn’t so much cars but their, to continue the body analogy, ‘lifeblood,’ oil/petrol which is where the wealth lies, but you did allude to that in your article.

    I agree with the majority of the other points, but the problem is that for such an eco-utopia to exist to world would have to drastically change. Public transport would have to increase drastically in both efficiency, volume and cost, and not only in the city but the countryside as well – there is nothing quite as sad as seeing a little old dear sitting in a draughty busshelter waiting for the hourly bus to take her into the local town, a journey the bus makes in 50 minutes in a roundabout way, which another commuter could make in 10 minutes in his private automobile. Personally I just do not see that happening swiftly – maybe over decades the west can work towards such an utopia, but not anytime soon.

    And that is, I feel the crux of the problem, no matter how good public transport, or alternative transport will become, for the forseeable future the car is king, mainly due to its gift of independence.

    What I would like to see though is far greater urgency in researching and promoting alternative energy which can be utilized in automobiles, to increase their eco-friendliness and reduce the depletion of the world’s oil reserves.

    So, cars are indeed symbols of progress, wealth and freedom, it’s just that its time for the car to evolve towards the future somewhat.

    • Not matter how good the drivers are (and bizarrely most people believe they are ‘above average’ ) having 32 million metal boxes hurtling around Britain at speeds of (legally at least) up to 70mph is always going to cause deaths; that cannot be avoided. What I was arguing against, and what the auto industry has been conning the public into accepting, is that those deaths and those world-wide are acceptable collateral damage. In the same way I agree with tighter restrictions on guns, I agree with tighter restrictions on cars – or even chopsticks if it was found that they were wittingly or unwittingly being used as tools to kill many people, year upon year.

      As for cars being symbols of progress, wealth and freedom. That depends on what your aims are. If your aims, like mine, are safe, sustainable and harmonious cities, then cars are taking us in the wrong direction. Indeed it is debatable if the wider modern existence, of which cars have been one of the defining forces, has been ‘progress’ at all, as people are apparently less ‘happy’ nowadays, and in the process of pursuing unhappiness we are knowingly accelerating the destruction of the life-sustaining systems of this planet. As cars have become more prosaic, they are losing their ‘status’ potential. In Japan – a locus of the car world – young people no longer consider the car as a ‘status symbol’. The same is beginning to happen in Britain.

      But more importantly, I was making the point that economically, cars are huge drain, both individually and nationally. Stupidly, the pollution, environmental damage and social degradation that cars cause are not included in the ‘economic’ cost of driving, even though they have inherent ‘return costs’, which ultimately could prove priceless. The same auto industry is delivering cars to us which are manufactured of lower quality, with built-in obsolescence – accelerating resource extraction and pollution, and meaning that people have to work much harder to deliver us a product of lower feasible quality which we then swiftly dispose of to buy yet another car which we can‘t actually afford. Is that a particularly clever system to be promoting?

      I agree with you that more money should be invested into research into alternative fuels, but an acceptable alternative fuel may never be devised in the time-frame we need. Even if possible, it could create its own sustainability dilemma, requiring further resource extraction and pollution costs in its implementation, potentially involving changing the entire energy infrastructure and every engine across the whole globe in a generation, and ultimately would still leave us with the car’s social and mortality problems. So until an alternative fuel really proves itself, considering it as our priority is distracting us from the only real workable solution we currently have – reducing car usage.

      Combusting oil, so people can have the ‘freedom‘ to sit in traffic jams, drive to the local shop in their 4 litre 4×4 to buy a newspaper, drive to work when they could walk or cycle or car-share, or drive round London when the average car speed is only 9mph (slower than horses and carts), is a shocking waste of our remaining oil reserves. Some chemists think it has always been a crime to burn oil (see A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash, 2006) due to its diverse chemical usage to create pharmaceuticals, fertilisers and plastics etc, which are more necessary to human survival. A further stupidity has been to sell this finite reserve so cheaply. One barrel of oil represents 25,000 man hours of joules. (see A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash, 2006)

      To sell 25,000 man-hours at historically less than $25 (and even at today’s $125 a barrel, it is still probably being undervalued) so that this invaluable resource be combusted in a car at about 15% efficiency is more a symbol of madness than of progress. We do need forms of rapid transport though, and public transport, although currently shackled by the same problems is much more efficient and has greater scope to be run off alternative fuels. Automobiles may still prove necessary for certain situations, such as the emergency services and living in the countryside, but ultimately, if people who live in some remote dwelling need to use a car to sustain their lifestyle and emit, say 8 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year in the process, greatly exacerbating the “biggest threat to mankind”, then the question should be asked, should they be living there?

      I think you’ve misunderstood the main point of my argument: I was exactly calling for drastic change. Masdar aside, one city which has already instigated a large-scale transformation – thanks to strong civic leadership – is Curitiba in Brazil. There the revolutionary bus system has worked to the benefit of everybody. We could swiftly make similar changes here if politicians were to acknowledge the problem with acts. For starters, I would be in favour of reversing the Beeching Axe and investing heavily in countryside public transport along with improved urban public transport – which could easily be affording if we diverted funds away from our cars.

      Ignoring the infrastructure costs (££ billions), the accidents (££ billions), the environmental damage (£££ trillions?), cars contribution to the obesity epidemic (££ billions), aesthetic damage (£??) and road fatalities (priceless?), the total individual’s costs of keeping cars on UK roads is well-over £51 billion a year. Let’s divert those funds. The problem in America is even worse. The developed world should be attempting to set an example to the developing world about how to re-organise cities towards mass-transport, cycling and walking, and hopefully, avoid the unacceptable and increasing levels of pollution, social degradation and the deaths that would occur if we continue with the current system.

    • Hi Clint! How’s things? Just playing devil’s advocate here… =)

      Firstly, I agree that commonsensically nothing inanimate kills people of its own volition; but it seems like a trivial linguistic point. Some things are more dangerous than others – you picked up on weapons as an example – and those for the most part are necessarily regulated. I think Owen’s point is that consumer culture dictates that these and other material objects are prerequisite for happiness/independence/wellbeing/improved sex lives (delete as appropriate). This artificially creates demand to sustain the industry, which DOES create wealth, albeit for a minority.

      Incidentally I’d argue there’s no such equivalent need for guns, because there’s always demand that can be manufactured militaristically elsewhere. (see Afghanistan, Iraq or Israel/Palestine)

      Anyhoo, I’d say cars are status symbols, unworthy as they may be. Terms like progress and happiness are entirely relativistic, and the cultural paradigm we are living in tells us that these equate to rampant consumption, irrespective of how mentally irrational, economically inefficient and environmentally unsustainable it is.

      I’m not sure where The Change will come from; perhaps when there are no more countries left whose oil reserves we can privatise *cough*, sorry, ‘liberate’ (the list of remaining sovereign states with significant enough oil reserves to warrant sanctions/interventions/invasions is getting increasingly sparse), governments won’t be able to subsidise the rarity of the black stuff, and people just won’t be able to afford it or anything involving it any more.

      When not just our transport system, but also our entire social infrastructure is premised on a quick and cheap supply of oil to run them, surely it’s a recipe for chaos. So that’s why waiting around for or prioritising greener technologies merely to sustain the industry isn’t really an option. I think Owen means that there are more immediate ways of dealing with the key problems that he has with cars – their environmental impact, and their dangerousness – i.e. phasing out their usage.

      Someone, whether the government or the public, has to initiate what’s already an inevitable paradigmatic shift in thinking: from the current free-for-all consuming to something that’s not entirely informed by advertising agencies, and a little more sustainable overall. Problem is, I reckon we’re stuck in a dilemma of inaction whereby the public can’t do anything (‘we’re a minority, most people are suckered into the materialist dream’) and the government won’t (it’s just not a popular enough policy, we won’t get voted in next time’).

      Thus buses will remain smelly and sporadic until either the authorities have the balls to invest in sorting them out, or, enough members of the public are educated about the issues and pressure them into doing so.

  4. Yeah I was being a little trivial in my first post, mainly because of the allusion that cars were basically as dangerous as AK47’s. Frankly that got my back up a bit as a gun is designed for one thing and one thing only and that is to kill. A car’s main aim on the otherhand is speed, safety and reliability, amongst other things. (maybe fuel economy as well – cough!)

    So if I sounded a little flippant – ah well fair do’s.

    Anyway, for cars to be abolished, or at least replaced by public transport, regardless of the car’s listed costs you mentioned, the slate would have to be wiped clean and the entire infrastructure rebuilt, and I just do not see that happening – ever. It would take too much time and money and perhaps and even greater obstacle, imagine the administration involved!

    Like a piece of knowledge once gained, cannot be unlearned, the independence and freedom offered by an individual owning an automobile will not be given up.

    To be crude, would you give up using a private lavatory in favour of public ones? I certainly would not.

    Short of an inferno of revolution sweeping the lands, nothing will drastically change…. argh gotta go my bacon sandwich is ready! I’ll probably check this again later.

    • How do you judge how dangerous something is to human life?

      A prediction (admittably very unscientific) for the total amount of people killed by AK-47s – reputably the World’s most dangerous weapon – is put at 47 million. Deaths caused by cars are already comparable and will probably overtake that number shortly, as the World Heath Organisation has forecasted that between 2000 and 2015 road accidents would have caused 20 million deaths, 200 million serious injuries and have left more than one billion people killed, injured, bereaved or left to care for a victim. The point of comparing a car to a gun was to say, that although cars are not intended as a weapon, judging by the statistics alone one would think they had been designed to kill.

      As I said in the previous posting, Curitiba has achieved huge improvements in their public transport after instigating very simple changes to the existing ‘modernist’ infrastructure. We could do the same very swiftly if we accept the problem and allow the politicians to pass the necessary acts.

      Using a car today is knowing contributing to global waming, which the World Health Organisation has reported already kills about 160,000 people a year, and has the potential to cause millions, if not billions of deaths. Does that make cars dangerous? And does it make it a moral crime for us to continue driving out of convenience, when public tranport could provide a similar level of mobility?

      The World’s governments are meeting in Copenhagen this December to attempt to iron-out a successor to Kyoto. The UN’s own model will demand that world carbon emissions be totally capped by 2015 (they’re currently increasing exponentially), then reduced by 90% worldwide in 50 years, whilst allowing strong economic and population growth in the majority developing world – in order to stave off the worst-case climate change scenarios. With current attitudes towards transportation, the world’s car fleet is predicted to more than triple in that time. Without a new ‘wonder fuel’ how could those targets ever be achieved? I think it would look grossly ignorant for us in the rich developed world to just sit back now and say ‘well things just can’t be changed’, when places like Curitiba have proven they quite easily can.

      I think your comparison between public toilets and public transport is unrealistic. You don’t pop out to the bus, say 5-10 times a day, spend a minute on it, then come home. And obviously, (perhaps you’re being flippant again?) using you’re own toilet is not significantly creating more pollution, deaths, economic burdens, burning through our dwindling oil supplies or causing aesthetic and social damage to our cities. Besides, with infrastructure changes, you may not need to use public transport at all in a given day, or even a week. And like I said, if we divert the necessary funds, the quality of our public transport would greatly improve. I reckon that after a short transition period, people would become as used to walking/cycling/public transport as they are to currently driving a car. And like I’ve already pointed out, we’ve got everything economically, socially, ecologically and aesthetically to gain from changing the system today.

  5. ‘How do you judge how dangerous something is to human life?’

    Well I certainly consider a driver a less immediate threat to my life than a gunman.
    Also, do those figures of so and so many millions killed take into account that there are far many car users as opposed to gun users in the population; if you normalized those numbers I wonder how they would compare.
    It is the same as comparing domestic related deaths to armed forces deaths, I bet the domestic ones would far far outweight them mainly because virtually every person does something in the household and is thus in danger of a domestic death!

    Oh but perhaps I am being flippant again. Deaths will happen regardless of whether its cars, bicycles, sledges, pogo sticks. The problem is youre demonizing the car – a vast majority of the casualties would merely migrate to the next vehicle of choice. In ages past it was horses and carts, and now its cars.

    I fully agree that they should be greener (hybrid motors etc), and that their safety could be improved and that public transport could use a major overhaul (if only britain’s trains were as punctual as germany’s) in major cities, as it seems to me you are generally speaking from a city perspective.

    I have no problem with walking to my destination at all – I tend not to use my car much if I can help it, however purging an individual mode of transport from our society I just cannot agree with.

    In an ideal world it would be great to be whizzing round in our speed-limited, safe, electric ‘Demolition Man-esque’ mobiles, however if your statement of ‘if people who live in some remote dwelling need to use a car to sustain their lifestyle and emit, say 8 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year in the process, greatly exacerbating the “biggest threat to mankind”, then the question should be asked, should they be living there?’ is anything to go by it makes me shudder.

    Who should have authority so deny them to live there? Just another slice of individualism eaten away for the greater good. There are already enough rules and regulations, any more and we are a step away from a 1984 style police state.

    Anyway to sum up, cars can be dangerous, but so can anything else, they are there for evil capitalist profits but who cares, they could be greener and hopefully will be, it would be nice to have better public transport in general and more priority for pedestrians and cyclists, but I would still be adverse to giving up my automobile and frankly if you take merely a minute on the loo to take a poop I am very impressed.

    Anyway I wish you luck in your crusade :)

    • Thank you for wishing me your luck, and for agreeing that more priority should be given to pedestrians and cyclists, although you don’t seem to offer your intellectual support to my main argument; that car usage should be significantly cut and replaced by high-quality public transport. That, i’d be far more interested in, as my ‘crusade’ won’t work without broad democratic support.

      I have a few points to raise regarding your last posting;

      1. You still haven’t answered my question: ‘How do you judge how dangerous something is to human life?’

      I normally judge how dangerous something, such as cars and their implicit action – driving – is to human life by looking at how many people it kills and injures directly and indirectly, now and in the future. Cars have already killed tens of millions, are predicted to kill 2.3 million people a year by 2020, are significantly contributing towards climate change which is already killing an estimated 160,000 people a year and rising, and has the potential to kill millions, or even billions more in the future. Cars have injured many more, and currently injure an estimated 50 million people worldwide and rising, and leave an estimated one billion people either dead, injured or bereaving. In America, in one month more people are killed on their roads then in the entire Twin Towers attack. Cars are also significantly depleting our dwidling oil reserves, which we currently need to sustain life. The misguided and hugely expensive War in Iraq has potentially claimed over one million lives already, and is widely believed to be more about securing future oil supplies to feed America’s voracious oil demands. The UN judges the problem of road deaths to be a more serious ‘public health crisis’ than Aids, malaria and tuberculosis. To me, all these arguments and more justifies labelling cars, and driving as “dangerous” to human life. Do you agree?

      2. “Do those figures of so and so many millions killed take into account that there are far many car users as opposed to gun users in the population; if you normalized those numbers I wonder how they would compare.”

      Unfortunately the statistics don’t exist for total world gun-owners, so we’ll just have to take the total numbers of each tool and assume a 1:1 tool-to-ownership. As there are some people in the world who own several cars, there are some people who own several guns, so hopefully the results aren’t too unfair. I’ve also tried to keep the statistic to civilian use only, to avoid any potential armed forces/domestic deaths confusion;

      World population (2000) = 6,000,000,000

      Estimated civilian firearms (2006) = 650,000,000
      Estimated car fleet (2002) = 531,000,000

      Estimated non-conflict firearm deaths (2000) = 215,000
      Estimated non-conflict road deaths (1998) = 1,000,000

      6,000,000,000/650,000,000 = 1 gun owner per 9.2 persons
      6,000,000,000/531,000,000 = 1 car owner per 11.3 persons

      6,000,000,000/215,000 = 1 firearm death per 27,907 persons
      6,000,000,000/1,000,000 = 1 car death per 6,000 persons

      27,907/9.2 = 1 gun death per 3,033 gun-owners
      6,000/11.3 = 1 road death per 530 drivers

      Like I said before, the point of comparing a car to a gun was to say that by judgement of the statistics alone, one would think that cars, like guns, are designed to kill. Furthermore, these figures don’t take into account cars 25% contribution towards climate change (potentially much higher), so I really should have added another 40,000 and rising ‘designed’ deaths to the drivers count. Perhaps judging by these new statistics, cars now appear statistically even better designed to kill?

      3. “Well I certainly consider a driver a less immediate threat to my life than a gunman.”

      I assume by your statment you mean looking at a hypothetical UK ‘per car-owner death toll’, vs. UK ‘per gun-owner death toll’, the gun-owner’s death toll would be higher? Thankfully there are strong restrictions on gun-ownership in this country, but even so, many guns have found their way-in illegally, and as such there are an estimated 4 million guns in the UK. As there are only 126,400 (2005) legal firearms licences in the UK, I assume that most of those 4 million guns lie in the hands of criminals. In that respect, I also fear one illegally-armed criminal gunman more than one average calm driver. Whether overall an illegally-armed criminal/licensed gun-owner is a more immediate threat to your life than an average driver… well the statistics don’t seem to point that way;

      UK firearm deaths 2008 = 42
      UK road deaths 2008 = 2,943

      4. “a vast majority of the casualties would merely migrate to the next vehicle of choice.”

      Please tell me what vast percentage of the deaths you think would be mitigated to the walking/cycling/bus/trains system that I have been proposing?

      I personally think you would see a large reduction in deaths, as buses are larger (therefore easier to spot and noisier), would be quantitatively fewer, generally slower, would stick to designated routes, and an individual would require a higher and more regulated level of skill to become a bus driver. Trains run on protected lines. The remaining cycling/walking would be unlikely to cause many deaths. As for horses and carts, I doubt they caused comparatively as many direct deaths, or contributed significantly to global warming.

      5. “The Earth can absorb no more than 3 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year for every person on the planet if we are to keep temperature and rainfall change within tolerable limits.” [1]

      ‘if people who live in some remote dwelling need to use a car to sustain their lifestyle and emit, say 8 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year in the process, greatly exacerbating the “biggest threat to mankind”, then the question should be asked, should they be living there?’ is anything to go by it makes me shudder.

      I was saying that if their unsustainable lifestyle means they emit 8 tonnes of carbon a year, then we should ask them to make drastic changes, which could potentially, but not neccesarily, include (as a last-resort tactic) moving house. It’s either that, or us in the cities offset their unsustainable lifestyle by making even more personal sacrifices such as using even less energy, driving/using public tranport even less, buying less food etc. I am in favour of cities offsetting some of their pollution, but in the extreme example I gave of 8 tonnes a year, I personally thought it was fairer to ask them to make changes. What do you think?

      6. “if only britain’s trains were as punctual as germany’s”

      I agree, our trains should be more like the Germans, who I imagine spend more on them and demand more from them than us, and hence reap the rewards. It’s interesting you mention the Germans because of this report;

      The German experience offers five lessons to the United States for improving transportation sustainability through changes in travel behavior:

      -Get the Price Right in order to encourage the use of less polluting cars, driving at non-peak hours and more use of public transportation.
      – Integrate Transit, Cycling, and Walking as Viable Alternatives to the Car, as a necessary measure to make any sort of car-restrictive measures publicly and politically feasible.
      – Fully Coordinate and Integrate Planning for Land Use and Transportation to discourage car-dependent sprawl and promote transit-oriented development.
      Public Information and Education to Make Changes Feasible are essential in conveying the benefits of more sustainable policies and enforcing their results over the long term.
      Implement Policies in Stages with a Long Term Perspective because it takes considerable time to gather the necessary public and political support and to develop appropriate. measures.

      7. “Just another slice of individualism eaten away for the greater good.”

      I didn’t realise the “greater good” was always such a bad concept. Do you think it’s more important that we continue as individual polluters for this generation, or that future generations are born into a safer, more sustainable world? Cars and their implicit infrastructure are potent forces of the spread of the ecologically-damaging consumer monoculture; which comparatively lacks cultural diversity, erodes regional differences, increases social isolation and encourages people to replace their own opinions with those of the corporate media – a.k.a. loss of individualism. [2]

      8. “There are already enough rules and regulations, any more and we are a step away from a 1984 style police state.”

      I’m not sure how you can logically compare laws designed to create a more sustainable ‘fairer’ world, to the runnings of a faux communist-style authoritian dystopia. It is indeed a shame that our government will have to step in and make yet more regulations, but as you and most other car owners have already proven, given the choice people generally make selfish short-term choices and the ‘consumer democracy’ alone will not cut our emissions by 90%. Or would you prefer we just forgot about that problem?

      9. “they are there for evil capitalist profits but who cares”

      I’m glad we both agree that they are there for evil capitalist profits, but of that I do care. And a great deal. So do a considerable amount of other people I believe. I’m not blindly supporting an industry just because it creates profits (which it isn’t at the moment because rampant consumption has unsurprisingly internally-collapsed). I’d rather look deeper, at the full repercussions of those profits on the wider economy, on our cities, on our oil reserves, on our causes of death, on our environment and on people’s general well-being. Ironically, the current blind support of profits, regardless of their consequences, has already taken us a step closely to the 1984 police state that you so feared earlier.

      10. “if you take merely a minute on the loo to take a poop I am very impressed.”

      You need not be impressed as I take more than a minute to poop. However occasionally there are days when I don’t poop at all. In the same analogy you wouldn’t necessary need to use public transport everyday. Whilst I do wee several times everyday, and generally that takes, about a minute. Besides, like I’ve already stated, your analogy between public toilets and public transport is totally unrealistic. On a separate note, I personally wish they did increase public toilets. It’s rather annoying when you’re out and there’s no available toilet.


      Just because cars are the current dominant system of transportation doesn’t make them the most efficient system and it doesn’t make them a god-given right, especially when they cause so many deaths, so much pollution and so much other damage along the way. Cars may still be required for certain situations, but in cities, they are not the way forward.

      I personally think that high-performance electric cars (built by companies which deploy sound ethical and sustainable business practises) coupled with strong investment in road safety and an even tighter driving-license system, supporting a heavily-invested public transport network could be an acceptable transport solution for the future that retains widespread car usage. However, and this is a BIG however, seeing as for the forseeable future we won’t have the necessary infrastructure to generate enough clean energy to supply such an energy-hungry system, and seeing as the implementation of such a scheme would produce it’s own huge levels of inherent pollution – which we just can’t afford at this time – for the time being it’ll have to remain a side issue, while we focus on the only viable solution available to us in the time-frame permitted; a massive reduction in car usage and counter investment in public transport.

      In time, with fundamental technological changes – which overcome the huge economic, social, environmental, aesthetic and safety problems – cars, or “Demolition Man-esque’ mobiles”, or whatever they would be called then, could well be fit for a return. However currently, an individual form of overly-damaging transportation is on the whole, not essential for survival, while cutting pollution drastically, is.

      [1] Goodall, Chris. How to Live a Low-Carbon Life: The Individual’s Guide to Stopping Climate Change. Earthscan, 2007. P.4
      [2] Norberg-Hodge, Helena. The March of the Monoculture. P.6

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