As with most of my site, I had originally intended to update this page every couple of weeks. Six months later, I'm finally getting around to doing something. I'm going to leave the first little blast up here for a bit longer, along with some of the replies it has generated. Expect to see another mindless rant come along soon.
#1: "Pave The Earth" -- killing the cities with concrete
#1: Replied to "Pave The Earth" -- the readers reply
It came in the form of a Mustang Cobra Black and Gold Special. Only recetly rescued from someone who hadn't kept up their payments, I took over at $75 a month. It was my first car. Since then, I've owned a dozen of the beasts. I've still got the '79 RX-7 I snatched off the boat in March of '78, when they still sold for $6300 and no one had any idea of what they were. I've sadly ditched the Metro Geo, which got 60 MPG, but which also blew a head gasket twice a year. Counting the RX, which is setting snuggly in a garage waiting for history to realize its greatness, I own four cars right now.
Only recently have I realized that I am an acolyte for evil.
Cars are a bad idea. So bad it's hard to see why everyone isn't jumping up and down and screaming about it.
You can't blame the guys that thought them up. They were a wonderful solution to the problems of transportation at the time. Even as late as my own childhood, a car was a ticket to really being able to get out of town and into the wilderness. Cars were the instruments of, if not good, or at least of the not so bad.
It ain't so these days.
Cars are a huge source of pollution, a tremendous waste or resources, and little more than a form of societal madness. But I could get past the idea of using a ton of metal and plastic to move one person around if it wasn't for one thing -- roads.
Where cars go, roads follow. And it's roads that have really got my dander up. (Hey, you get old, you develop a dander. What can I say?)
Four lane highways are driven through the wilderness for no reason than to prove a congressman's ability to spread millions of dollars in pork. People having a wreck on that old curvy road? Hey, don't trust folks to act better, just build a bigger road. Oh yeah, and knock down a few hills to keep it straight. Worst of all, every time traffic uilds up, instead of looking for a way to reduce the traffic, we take the option that is a sure bet to make things worse.
Here's a quiz: You move into a city where the property costs are high and the neighborhood schools are so-so. But, out there twenty, thirty miles from town, there are shiny little bedroom communities which offer better schools, cheaper homes, and a better "quality of life." So you plunk down for that first mortgage and become a commuter. Two weeks later, you're fed up. Traffic jams going to work. Traffic jams coming home. It's taking you much longer than you thought it would to get in there, and you're tired of spending hours setting on the freeway every day.
So, what now? Do you:
Not only do most people choose C, their public officials are all too willing to comply. Highway construction dollars are the juicest pork out there. They offer unending chances for graft of every form.
And once that bigger highway is built, why it only becomes easier to lure even more people even further away from the city. Which of course requires a larger highway and the whole process starts all over again.
The end result is cities drained of their highest paid workers, huge spans of blacktop covering the countryside, and tiny towns swollen far beyond their meager facilities.
The next time someone talks about "white flight," "the collapse of the inner city," or "mega-ghettos," you don't need to go looking for some complex socio-economic conspiracy. Just look at that strip of blacktop that rolls right up to your door. As a special bonus, 99% of it is done at taxpayer expense. Yes sir, your taxes are going to help drain the blood out of every city in the nation and converting the country into a big apartment house laid on its side. Makes you feel good, doesn't it?
Here's the deal: let's have a 5 Year Moratorium On New Highway Construction. We finish all the projects in the works, and then we stop. Catch our breath. See if western civilization can survive without the smell of molten asphalt and a million make work jobs. If a road gets torn up, we patch it, but we stop making it easier for the cities to rot at taxpayer expense.
Go forth. Email your congress crittters. I'm talking with mine already. Of course, when those highway contruction folks have millions of your dollars to spread around. But hey, you can try.
Myself, I'm going to get rid of a car. Or maybe four.
Well, you won't get any argument from me. I was just involved with a debate about why Tucson Needs More Interstates. I've discovered that it's even more painful to watch the desert get paved than the woodlands, it being an even more fragile ecosystem. And while I have sympathy for those who are forced to switch to jobs farther from home, I have little sympathy for those who deliberately choose to live a ways from work--and then complain about traffic that surely they were aware of when they moved.
I have to say, as a member of the non-commuter set, the new roads they've put in my area have made it much easier to keep touch with, not to mention hang out with, friends in other cities. I visit San Francisco every Friday. At non-commute hours. Before, it would have taken 2 hours. Now it takes just slightly over one, since Hwy 85 works as one big diagonal.
Transportation is an important aspect of social function. Remember, when you were a little, little kid, you could only go visit the kids next door or down the block. And if they were boring or stupid, tough. Then you got a bike, and you could hang out with the friends from school you actually liked, even if they lived as far from school in the opposite direction as you did.
Then you get friends all over the city, or in other cities. What to do?
Cars are the only simple option. I have a number of friends in San Francisco and Santa Cruz who don't have cars, and while there's a fair bit of social activity going on in walking distance of their houses, there's a lot they miss out on.
I'll admit, having party invitations on the same night in three separate counties can get weird, but being a social dragonfly can be fun, not to mention crucial for sanity. With as odd as those of us in the SF set are, we're lucky if we have a friend with our same interests within bicycling, let alone walking, distance. And if we do, we're liable to set up a co-dependent situation.
I drive about 100 miles tonight to go see a friend's play. To round things out, I may loop by a bookstore I need to visit in another city, saving a bit of time and gas. But I couldn't do it without a car, and faster and safer roads to interlace what we already have set up are a good thing, IMHO.
Just so you know, I agree with you! you are not very hot under the collar at all, as GM is the largest company in the United States? there is far more corruption, and bad politics than either of us can ever imagine!
It will be a while before the road building jobs are gone; i am very amazed that there are people out there that have the patience to build roads; quite frankly, it would bore the hell out of me.
I live very close to my current job-- 3 miles, and still drive a car. i really should be taking my bike; just for the sheer fun of it, i walk a mile, or so, to the grocery store. that past saturday, i lugged home 3 bags of groceries! i had purchased a gallon of milk, 11 pounds of oranges, 2 lbs of yogart, a magazine, bannanas, and a bag of apples. the milk and oranges made the load at least 19 pounds, and then you need to add in all the other stuff. I wouldn't doubt that I had between 30 - 40 lbs of stuff!
The point is this,.. since i started bringing home my groceries using foot power, instead of car power, my grocery bill has been slashed in half! simply put, I cannot carry what my car could! and guess what?, i don't feel that i am starved, and am saving a lot of money! this particular grocery store that I go to has a heart / blood pressure machine. since I have ditched the car, my resting heart rate has fallen 12%, and my blood pressure is now in the low catagory. I must admit that walking to the store cannot take all the credit because I do like hiking-- which I enjoy more than ever now because my walking to the store keeps me in shape between hikes! i have also lost 10 lbs!
Like i said, i should really be either biking to work, or walking to work, but I currently don't; it is unfortunate that more people don't get out and lobby for nice bike lanes! this means trees and bushes on both sides of the lanes so that the terrible pollution from the cars don't intoxicate the bicycle rider!
This is one of the biggest problems! until you try riding a bike, you don't know how much pollution cars cause! most people simply roll up their windows, and breath air which has been filtered! this means that many people are already llving life in bubbles! and, it means that bikers will die premature deaths because our man made filters-- our lungs-- become destroyed and might get infected w/ cancer! this forces the biker to consider getting a car so he/she can be protected.
The auto has given society joy, while at the same time bringing it terrible problems.
I hope that electric cars will lessen the pollution so bike riders can enjoy the public roads as much as the cars do.
As for commutting time to work, i have no comment.. and agree with your viewpoint!
Hey there, nicely done! I've got one car, and since I drive it so seldom, I have to hook the battery to a pv panel to keep a charge. Last time I hooked the battery up and took a spin was to the insurance agent so they could see how few miles I'd driven and I could get a (not quite proportional) discount. I know some folks here in this town (Arcata, CA) who would be pleased to read your page. Hope you don't mind my printing it out to share with them.
I'm not wasting my time on this stupid argument.
Last Update: 6 Apr 1996
people have come to see me get hot under the collar.