Car-Centricity

Away from the major cities where parking is problematic and into cities built around urbanized sprawl exists a car-centric culture where cars are considered the only meaningful way to commute.  When car-centric people are asked if they foresee a day when cars may no longer be a major mode of transportation 8 out of 10 will say no.  But if asked whether they foresee a day when cars will no longer exists 9.9 out of 10 will say never.  Yet only 100 years ago cars were still not in common use.  The first gasoline run car was invented by Karl Benz in 1886 just about 130 years ago.  Prior to that the horse and cart had been used for thousands of years.  So cars had a relatively recent beginning and they will have an end.  Nothing made by man lasts forever.

Unlike nature which evolves gradually over many eons allowing defects to be gradually pruned out over time man’s inventions have evolved over a very short time not allowing enough time to remove most of its defects and weakness making his concoctions relatively short lasting and short lived.  This is more so in the modern world of high technology than before the industrial revolution 200 years ago where ancient edifices and artifacts still exist thousands of years later.  Today the average life of many of our high tech devices has a life of three to four years.  So just as the car was invented about 130 years ago it will one day outlast its usefulness to man due to the enormous infrastructures and energy needed to manufacture, support, and sustain it.

I believe that the bicycle will eventually replace cars.  The bicycle was invented around 1817.  Why won’t the bicycle see a similar fate.  It probably will one day far into the future but because it is such an efficient source of transportation requiring only a small fraction the infrastructure and energy to manufacture and almost no energy or resources to sustain compared to a car its adverse impact upon society and the environment will be negligible.  The reason its popularity never rose as a major mode of transportation is because the car was invented before it could attain greater popularity.  Cars have other attractive features such as they can travel great distances and carry several people and quite heavy loads.  In fact there are many less affluent nations especially in Asia and Africa where the bike has been the most prolific form of transportation.

The advantages listed for bikes make it far more sustainable as a means of long-term short-range (10 miles) transportation making it more far suitable in the future in a world where shorter supply of resources and energy, and greater affects of climate change are of far more importance then they are today.  Cars take up almost 25-30% of a city’s real estate in terms of roads, alleys, road side parking, garages and driveways, and parking structures.  Bicycles require a fraction of the space to operate and park making more valuable real estate available for habitation, schools, businesses, etc.  Bicycles also cause far fewer serious injuries compared to cars.  I have a long list of advantages of bicycles over cars in my post Pros and Cons of Cars vs. Bikes and web page Benefits of Biking.

As smaller urbanized cities grow and become more crowded, parking will become increasingly difficult and traffic congestion and street safety more problematic.  Street will have nowhere to expand and gridlock, when everyone leave for work and return home, commonplace as they already are on many of our highways and freeways.  More time and energy will be spent commuting from one place to another until people start looking for alternatives such as public transportation and, yes, bicycles.

A major stumbling block for commuting by bicycle is safety.  Streets crowded with cars and impatient drivers are not a safe place to commute by bicycle.  So people take public transportation if available.  But if our car-centric culture could change and bicycle lanes given the same consideration as streets for cars, safe protected Class IV cycle tracks could be designed just as they are in much of Europe to physically isolate cyclists from cars.  This would encourage far more people to use their bicycles which are far cheaper to use than taking public transportation or driving one’s car and  could be faster safely getting around traffic jams.

So car-centricity will be a temporary thing.  Eventually cars will become more of a hindrance than a practical mode of transportation and will become increasingly less important as a major mode of transportation.  The purpose of this website/blog is to make people aware of this and start planning cities to be far safer places for one to ride ones bike so when traffic become impossible people will have a ready alternative to commute by.  Alternatively as people become less car-centric they will become more will to ride their bikes and take alternative forms of transportation, slowly transitioning out of a car-centric culture and avoid having to face traffic congestion.  The latter case is by far the most beneficial.  Building a bicycle infrastructure when roads are highly congested is problematic because road closures to build such infrastructure will make traffic turn from very bad to impossible.  It is far better to be proactive and do it now and gradually transition away from car-centricity.

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About Frank G

Sustainable Bicycle Advocate
This entry was posted in Article, Considerations and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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