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comment by kleinbl00

Geography, Business decisions, social choices and the general development of the United States over the past 100 years have created an environment in which the utility of the automobile is fundamentally unmatched. Banning cars would destroy American society. As it is, access to and control of cars is limited: first you need to buy one. Then it needs to pass a safety inspection. Then you need to license it. Then you need to insure it. Then you, as an operator, need to pass multiple tests in order to operate it. There is an entire subclass of the criminal code (moving violations) that govern the operation of automobiles.

The first car I bought at seventeen cost me $350. It was $200/mo to insure it because I was young. As rudimentary as my driver's ed course was, I still had to attend it. I still had to be supervised. I still had to be tested. By way of comparison, at 18 and one month I drove my car (50 miles round trip) to a trailer park and paid $59 for a Chinese assault rifle. I paid another $39 for 1400 rounds of armor-piercing ammo. I asked the "dealer" if any of this would be reported and he said "I write down your name, put it in a safe and ceremonially burn everything after two years." He never so much as asked to see my license.

I grew up with steering columns that impaled you like a bug in the event of a collision. Lap belts were introduced 8 years before I was born. I remember when three-wheelers were banned. I remember when seat belts became mandatory in my state. I remember the addition of third brake lights. I remember the addition of airbags. I remember the addition of side airbags. I remember the mandating of crumple zones. I remember why Americans hate Ralph Nader:

I'm not quite sure what your point is? But there is absolutely no fucking parallel between automobiles and guns. There never has been, there never will be. Guns have been at about the same level of use safety since the advent of the cartridge. Their misuse safety, on the other hand, has plummeted for purely cultural reasons. The use safety of automobiles, on the other hand, has risen admirably, even if you account for the prevalence of cell phones and distracted driving.

I have also never seen scared racists line up to buy fucking cars.

veen  ·  8 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    Geography, Business decisions, social choices and the general development of the United States over the past 100 years have created an environment in which the utility of the automobile is fundamentally unmatched.

And what a shame that is. I would kill for L.A. weather with Dutch urban topography and bicycle infrastructure. The past few months of 'I am physically unable to move outside of my neighborhood without a car' have really reminded me of how much I hate car-dependancy and commuting by car, even if the former is a nearly traffic-free 15 minute drive. It's interesting how the one mode of transportation that requires a license, some modicum of skill and permanent engaged attention is the one that's championed for giving people freedom when I feel so much more free and present when cycling or on a comfortable train ride. I get why, but it's still a shame that there is no room for alternatives for the large swathes of people who don't want to or can't drive.

kleinbl00  ·  8 days ago  ·  link  ·  

On the one hand, 80% of the population of the United States is urban. On the other hand, 95% of the population of the United States considers themselves to be a high plains drifter, roaming with the tumbleweeds from one lone outpost of humanity to another, vast fields of buffalo grass beneath their feet for weeks at a time as the sun-drenched FREEEEEDUMMMMMMMM of it all surrounds them like their godhood.

And I'm gonna be honest. I grew up in a town of 20,000 people, half an hour from a town of 15,000 people, an hour from a town of 50,000 people and two hours from a town of 400,000 people and I'm here to tell ya - there wasn't a single fuckin' bus in a hundred mile radius until I went off to college.

I'm a big booster of public transit. It makes so much more sense than the alternatives. I love rail, I love carpool lanes, I love vanpools, I love all of it. But for one in five Americans it is simply not an option. Not in any way shape or form.

And whenever the five percent say "I can haz bike lanez" the ninety five percent point at the one-in-five guys and go WHY DO YOU HATE FREEDOM

My LA biking radius was 9 miles. If I needed to go less than 9 miles, it was quicker to take a bicycle just because of parking and traffic. If the sun was out, pedal power was quicker to get more than halfway across the urban core. And LA? Let's be honest, LA is the place where people will pay more on car payments than they will on rent because you're never going to invite anyone over to meet your six roommates.

Maybe things will change. Slowly. I guess this month is the first time the median new car payment is out of reach of the median American family.

veen  ·  7 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I can only imagine how much further your L.A. range would be if you'd sport an ebike instead.

The iron-clad laws behind urban geography is that speed and travel time dictates how far away people will live from each other, and that transit only makes sense when said transit is faster than driving. The decades-long attitude of US transportation planners, channeling their inner Robert Moses, is that driver speed is the penultimate measure of success. Thus the biggest argument against transit and bicycle lanes is that it will slow down car traffic, whilst ignoring that it's a bit of necessary collateral damage. Thus the U.S. urban topography throws people as far away from each other as possible, with everyone in their own solitary steel bubble moving to their solitary McMansion bubble. (Didn't Bowling Alone have a large section about this?)

More and more people are realizing that a) the shittiness of suburbia is by design, b) that cars are a large part of the problem, and c) that it doesn't have to be this way. Ever heard of Carmel, Indiana? I have:

kleinbl00  ·  7 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Ahh but the thing of it is? eBikes aren't that much faster. They just require less effort. I never found the effort to matter that much; what kept me out of an eBike is the inability to charge one up easily. My LA commute, round trip, was roughly 1.5x the comfortable battery range of anything under $6k. They were also, at the time, illegal on bike paths and bike paths are the only way you can survive LA long-term. Sure- might not be an issue in Cypress Park. But you ride through Santa Monica and you would encounter law enforcement. The only reason Rad Power Bikes limits their stuff to 20mph is to skirt that nasty Class 3 category, and the only reason anyone skirts Class 3 is because of municipalities like LA, where anything capable of going over 20mph assisted is still illegal on bike lanes.

You're right, I hadn't heard of Carmel, Indiana. Looking at it? It's a suburb of Indianapolis. I have nothing bad to say about its walkability, bikeability or general pedestrian-friendly vibe, but I will point out that a not-insignificant portion of its inhabitants definitely researched "how long will it take me to get to work in Indianapolis" before they moved there. And I hate to tell ya - I tried three different addresses in Carmel and three different addresses in Indianapolis and not a single combo had public transit options between them. Not on Saturday, not on Monday. There are a number of municipalities in America that look like that right now - Redmond, WA comes to mind, as does Burbank, CA. Call 'em "housewife friendly." It is a trend I support and one I hope more communities embrace. It does not, however, greatly impact the adoption of mass transit. Mostly? It encourages you to park in a big free parking lot and walk around shopping all afternoon with Olivia and the girls. I mean, there are three wine bars between us and the cars, it's a sign.

    The iron-clad laws behind urban geography is that speed and travel time dictates how far away people will live from each other, and that transit only makes sense when said transit is faster than driving.

So look.

1) The largest single asset most white people will ever own is their house. This is a big reason why there's a tax credit for homeownership - it helps keep minorities poor.

2) Homeownership within walking distance of your job is not only entirely out of reach for nearly everyone, it doesn't make much sense in an environment where jobs change every four to ten years.

3) As the largest single asset most white people will ever own, banks recommend that a third of someone's income be spent on paying for homeownership.

4) And no. People don't need to own houses. The rest of the world doesn't do it this way. But the US does. And because the US does, rent is equally expensive, if not more so, because it does not build wealth.

5) And the further you live from your likely job, the more likely you are to need to drive to it.

It's a rare state or county that requires the development of commute options in tandem with the development of property. In general? You throw up McMansions because everything's cheaper in the country and whatever bus line you put in? no one would ride it. Light rail is going to open down the street from me next year, a mere 75 years after the Post Office. The Seattle area has two international airports now and if we're lucky, you'll be able to ride rail between them in another fifteen years or so. Fundamentally? The United States was settled by automobile. As a consequence, automobiles remain crucial to transiting it. This is not the future I want. I would like to see it change.

But the causes are a lot less flippant than people want to believe. It's an intractable problem due to logistics, not culture.

Unlike guns.

dublinben  ·  7 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    no fucking parallel between automobiles and guns

Until you try to suggest even modest reforms that might challenge either of them, and suddenly they're unassailable pillars of our culture, immune from any criticism.

The racists might not be lining up to buy cars, but the car-dependent suburbs they live in are founded on racism, and they seem to struggle to come up with non-racist defenses of that status quo.

kleinbl00  ·  7 days ago  ·  link  ·  

You're gliding over motive, which does your stance no favors.

Compare and contrast: To the knowledgeable user of the handgun, the handgun is perfectly safe. In order to be injured while using a gun you must (A) point the gun at yourself (B) fail to follow basic procedures, like tucking your eye right up against a rifle scope or put the weapon to the wrong shoulder and hit yourself in the face with the cartridge or (C) have the weapon taken from you in conflict and cease to be the user. On the other hand, GM sold 800,000 vehicles that could kill you if your keychain was too heavy.

Trucks are definitely getting more dangerous to pedestrians and other drivers. That said, the immediate, proximate harm from automobiles - setting aside externalities like pollution - is from misuse, not use. The harm from firearms comes directly from their intended use. They are designed to do what they do. AR-15s are the chosen weapon of mass shooters because they are exceptionally good at mass shootings. The US Army instituted the .223/5.56N for the explicit purpose of bypassing Geneva Convention rules on flechettes; the thinking was that a weapon that produced mass casualty was of greater battlefield utility than a weapon that produced lethality because injuries are more of a logistics drain than fatalities.

You're right: suburbs were very much colonized based on racism. You don't need a Berkeley article for that, Zinn will do. But there's a chicken/egg problem here: White flight relied on the already-prevalent automobile, and it was largely into extant communities unreachable by mass transit. The automobile aided and abetted white flight, it didn't cause it. For every Levittown you point to I'll show you a hundred San Fernando Valleys.

And it matters because "you drive a car, therefore you are racist" is not a compelling argument. You will not convince anyone that their need for four wheels is based on their hatred of other races. In general, American distaste for public transit is utilitarian: "I don't use it so why should I pay for it or be inconvenienced by it." There are definitely malignant strains of cars equal freedom but for anyone of low or moderate income, the lack of a car is rightfully seen as an impediment to success.

Cars are a byproduct of the American experiment. Many nefarious actors have profited from them, and many nefarious actors have made the situation worse. America would benefit from less cars, presuming viable solutions were available; I think you'll find that where a viable solution is available, people use cars less. I'm hopeful that this trend will continue with GenZ's wholesale abandonment of cars. They certainly aren't getting cheaper, and they certainly aren't getting more essential. And really, what's a bus but a big, cheap rideshare?

But no matter how you slice it, they aren't guns. Cars serve a (too) necessary function in American society and their harms are externalized. Guns serve a MUCH less necessary function in American society and their harms are a direct consequence of their intended function.

dublinben  ·  2 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    Cars serve a (too) necessary function in American society and their harms are externalized. Guns serve a MUCH less necessary function in American society and their harms are a direct consequence of their intended function.

Too true.

I'll still continue my crusade for alternatives to car supremacy until "traffic violence" reaches the same order of magnitude in our public conversation as "gun violence". I'm affected by the former every time I step out of my home, so this is personal for me.

kleinbl00  ·  2 days ago  ·  link  ·  

And I will cheer you on vociferously and enthusiastically. I had five cars as a sixteen year old and at the age of 18, bought an assault rifle. I lived in LA full time for ten years and part-time for five; fifteen months of that were conducted 100% car free.

Living in a city without an automobile puts a real hitch in your getalong, but it can be done. Living in the country without an automobile is untenable. Living without a gun? I mean, I can't even make a joke about feral hogs or some shit. "Too many cars" is an American problem with solutions. "Too many guns" is a different American problem with different solutions and aside from both being problems, no useful parallels can be drawn. Oversimplification is the enemy of comprehension.