Are We “Forced” to Drive a Car?

By Dom Nozzi

September 19, 2004

People often say to me that it is IMPOSSIBLE to survive without a car. Whenever I tell people that I’ve lived most of my adult life without owning a car, they look at me like I am some sort of dangerous lunatic. Or that I am from outer space.

They quickly rationalize about how “its possible for you, Dom, because you don’t have kids.” Or “you live close to work.” Or “you don’t have to run errands during the day.” Or “you don’t need to wear a dress.” And as I often say, it is IRRATIONAL not to drive a car quite often, because of the way we’ve designed our communities.

Sure, it is possible to live without a car. No one “forces” a person to use a car all the time. One has the “option” of walking or riding a bicycle seven miles, at night, in terrible weather, on a busy 5-lane road – a road without a safe space for wastreet without on street parkinglking or bicycling — to go shopping at the mall, or attend a meeting, or come home from work, or ferry kids and cargo. On a road that contains HUGE intersections that are extremely dangerous for a bicyclist or pedestrian to negotiate.

A person has the “option” of taking a bus filled with sketchy people, that arrives once every hour or so, and then takes an exceedingly slow route to your destination – assuming it actually goes anywhere near your destination.

But I question how many times a year that actually happens.

Our society makes it VERY difficult to travel without a car. I would say that on average, I attend about 5 events per week and I am almost always the only person there who has bicycled or walked. Indeed, bicycling and walking (or riding a bus) are considered so difficult and unlikely that almost no city government is willing to even set up a parking cash-out program — a program in which motorists would have the option of retaining the status quo of a free parking spot, or instead being awarded a higher salary [maybe $25-$100 per month] if they chose to walk, bicycle or bus to work. In other words, it is inconceivable to most all local government decision-makers that ANY employees would actually decide not to drive to work thru such an incentive. So why offer it?

So yes, no one is “forced” to drive a car. But it takes heroic efforts to NOT drive a car.

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Filed under Bicycling, Transportation

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