Photo courtesy of Who Killed the Electric Car
I spotted this billboard while watching Who Killed the Electric Car the other day. I couldn’t find a better quality photo of it, so I captured a screenshot from the movie. The tongue-in-cheek billboard reads “Making sure nobody walks in L.A.”.
Although catchy and probably effective for marketing this particular oil change company, this billboard reveals a dark truth about our society. We have essentially built cities that require automobiles for survival – cities that are designed so nobody can walk or bike to their destination.
The “making sure nobody walks or bikes” phenomenon can be attributed to several different industries and entities:
The car manufacturers:
- For selling people on the idea that everybody needs their own automobile and that they need to refresh their cars every few years
- For shutting down electric streetcars and attempting to ensure people have little choice but to drive automobiles
- For subsidizing car manufacturers and oil exploration to ensure that the cost of car ownership is artificially low compared to its real cost to our society
- For constructing roads that only accommodate motor vehicles and largely ignore pedestrians and bicyclists
- For designing residential developments in remote areas that require substantial driving even to buy a carton of milk
The oil companies:
- For drilling in far-reaching and sensitive areas in order to ensure gas prices stay artificially low
- For falling prey to the “American Dream” (aka excessive consumerism) and contributing to our lack of transportation options by supporting the developers, car manufacturers and government
- For constantly demanding more road space at the detriment to better public transportation and safe bicycling/walking facilities
We can blame the oil companies, developers, car manufacturers and the government for “making sure nobody walks or bikes”, and it is well deserved criticism. But at the end of the day it is us who bought into their propaganda and effectively dug our own graves.
We can contribute to changing the direction we are headed and make our cities more liveable. Here are a few ideas on how we can effect change in our society:
Support developers who invest in creating liveable communities with transportation options aside from just automobiles (public transit, bike infrastructure, mixed residential/business areas).
Try to live closer to work when buying/renting a home
Don’t look purely at the rent or the cost of the home. Look at the hard costs of automobile ownership vs. living in the city and living car free, as well as the “soft” costs of the time/stress that you will endure while commuting from your home to work.
Celebrate higher gas prices. Higher gas prices will lead to better alternative options, because more people (including yourself) will demand better alternatives when gas inevitably becomes unaffordable.
Don’t be afraid to live in a smaller space. It will encourage you to buy less (because you have less space to put things) and you will probably end up closer to work as a result.
Support politicians who are forward thinking and who support alternative transportation options. Don’t vote for politicians who employ short-sighted policies such as reducing gas prices.
If you can, try to boycott the oil companies simply by driving less.
Photo of Toronto bicyclists by Abram / RateMyVelo.com
These are just a few things we can all try to do to ensure our cities are more liveable so our children won’t have to live in a society where industries and organizations are “making sure nobody walks or bikes”.
Our failed policies of the past can be reversed to make a better world for our children in the future.
- The World Has Changed. So Can You. (Apr 2011)
- We Are Addicted To Automobiles (May 2011)
- Stick It To The Oil Companies (Apr 2011)
- Americans Work 2 Hours Each Day To Pay For Their Cars (May 2011)