My neighbor’s passing was shocking and heartbreaking. But at the time, it felt like a basically unavoidable tragedy. In our small city in Michigan—like almost everywhere in America—driving is the price of first-class citizenship. We never stopped to ask whether a different bargain was possible. Since her passing, approximately 1 million more Americans have been killed in car crashes.
I’m not sure I’m behind all the arguments made in the article, but I regularly ask myself why cars always get the preference as I bike commute around town or walk with my kids places. We always have to be vigilant so that a car doesn’t take our lives unless we’re in the specifically “walking safe” areas of town.
Also interesting, the streets that are cramped for cars and force them to go slow, or not even show up, are so much more peaceful for people to exist in.
Since the dawn of the automobile, governments have been slow to address its downsides. “We have gloated too much over the usefulness of the motor car,” said The New York World in a 1913 editorial. “We put it into reckless hands. We make no effective laws against its misuse.”
In the years since, American government at all levels crossed a line. Instead of merely accommodating some people’s desire to drive, our laws essentially force driving on all of us—by subsidizing it, by punishing people who don’t do it, by building a physical landscape that requires it, and by insulating reckless drivers from the consequences of their actions. To page through the law books today is to stumble again and again upon evidence of automobile supremacy. The range and depth of legal supports for driving is bewildering. But these laws, which are everywhere we look, are also opportunities.