The four-wheel fetish: moving beyond the car | #mobilityTO #moveTO

Back to the whole War on the Car thing.

A recent post at All Fired Up suggests that driving cars essentially turns people into sociopaths. Perhaps I’m not giving the argument the space it deserves here, but it’s pretty compelling. A sample:

… if we’re looking around for a culprit for the serious democratic deficit currently facing us, the toxic public discourse that now passes for political debate, the unbridgeable left-right schism, we can stop searching right now. It’s all about car ownership.

The unnatural attachment some people have to their cars could be the subject of an entire book. It  was very much in evidence at City Hall last night in some of the questions at the opening of Toronto Talks Mobility. And, as in almost any discussion of this, someone just had to bring up one of the first things Rob Ford said as our newly installed Chief Magistrate: “The War on the Car is over.”

Yeah, well. I’ve gone on at some length about that meme, so not much point in rehashing it, but there was one guy at the microphone, fairly shortly after moderator Christopher Hume opened things up to questions from the audience, prompting me to tweet:

[View the story “Toronto talks mobility: one tweet … ” on Storify]


Apparently, it struck a chord.

The staying power of the “War on the Car” meme isn’t just about stupidity. It also speaks to the lingering effects of bad planning and misguided nostalgia for better times that never were. So let’s consider some of the things that should guide our thinking when we’re designing our communities and shaping infrastructure, because those are essential to the way we move people and goods around.

  • Peak oil.
  • Carbon emissions. 
  • Non-sustainable urban form.
  • And this cheery piece from the Guardian, which says, basically, that if we don’t manage to get thing turned around by 2017, we’re fucked.

Not an exhaustive list, of course, but rethinking how we design our communities and how we get around isn’t just good policy any more — it’s survival. We can’t build things around the car any more.

In fact, I’ll recycle Justin Beach’s argument from last summer — there is no war on the car. As recent events show, what we’ve got is open season on anyone who *isn’t* in a car.

Can we finally, at last, please, retire that idiotic meme?

P.S. What was that about cars turning people into sociopaths?

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