Follow @theurbancountry on Twitter Find us on Facebook Subscribe to theurbancountry.com via e-mail Subscribe to theurbancountry.com via RSS
Follow @theurbancountry on Twitter Find us on Facebook Subscribe to theurbancountry.com via e-mail Subscribe to theurbancountry.com via RSS

We Are Addicted To Automobiles 18

Traffic Jam

Photo of a traffic jam by buzrael / Flickr

In the Twelve Steps to recovery from alcoholism – first published in 1939 in Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered From Alcoholism – the first step is defined as:

“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable”.

The 12-step program has become the pillar for other similar programs to help people recover from addiction, compulsion and other behavioural problems: from Gamblers Anonymous to Workaholics Anonymous to Cocaine Anonymous.

This first step in the recovery process could certainly be applied to our addiction to automobiles. We first need to admit that we have an addiction and reliance on automobiles that has contributed to making our lives and the future of our planet unmanageable.

Last Tuesday, author, sex columnist, and media pundit Dan Savage posted a brief post with a link to my article about how much Americans work to pay for their cars:

YouDontOwnYourCar

Savage’s post on Slog, the News and Art section of Seattle’s weekly newspaper The Stranger generated some controversy as several commenters sought to defend their dependence on automobiles (as would be expected in North America):

One particular comment by one Catalina Vel-DuRay however grabbed my attention:

“I really don’t understand the automatic knee-jerk nastiness of the pro-car crowd. I know that we’ve all been conditioned to believe that our cars are an extension of us, and show how sexy we supposedly are, but why are people so defensive? Are you really so threatened by the idea of not having a car, or at least facing the fact that the industry is largely a scam?”

You might expect such a comment from a treehugging, left-wing pinko bicyclist. But this particular comment came from a woman who admits that she herself is as much a willing victim of the scam as anyone else:

“And lest anyone accuse me of being a pro-bicycle activist. We have two cars (one old and paid for, one new and not) an elderly truck, an RV and a boat. I haven’t ridden a bicycle since 1990. It’s ridiculous to have these many vehicles, particularly as (my husband) works about 1/2 mile from (me), and I take Link (transit) to work, but that’s the way it works around here.”

It’s refreshing to see someone who lives in a 2-person household and owns 5 vehicles openly admit that owning 5 vehicles is ridiculous and excessive and that we are all suckers to the same marketing scam that has convinced us that it is normal and necessary to rely on automobiles to transport ourselves. She concludes:

“All I’m saying is that the industry is a scam – maintenance, insurance, sales, financing, marketing, etc. And the reactionary attitude of a lot of Americans when you presume to even question this “lifestyle choice” is pretty funny. We’re all suckers in the name of consumerism. We just prefer to call it “freedom”.”

Indeed, it is ironic that the very invention that brought us this “freedom” initially has later turned us into prisoners. In today’s world, I define freedom as being removed from the shackles of car ownership and traffic congestion. For me, that means using a bicycle for 90% of my trips, and using a car only periodically.

Montreal bicyclist in bike lane

Photo of a Montreal bicyclist by James D. Schwartz on Rate My Velo

Choosing carefully where you decide to live and living car-free or car-light is indeed freedom in itself. Freedom from stressing about gas prices; freedom from car payments, depreciation, unexpected repairs; and most importantly: freedom from traffic congestion.

Lest you confuse me as an “anti-car” bicycle advocate: Cars do serve a very useful purpose in our society, but they should be one of the tools in our toolbox for transporting us instead of being (for all intents and purposes) the single tool in the toolbox (as they are for most people in North America).

James D. Schwartz is the editor of The Urban Country. You can contact James at james.schwartz@theurbancountry.com.

Related Articles:

  • Micheal Blue

    James, I think people are not addicted to cars per se. People can get attached to whatever is the more convenient, more pleasant way. If someone would make public transport or biking more convenient and more pleasant, people would abandon cars quite quickly.

    • http://www.theurbancountry.com James Schwartz

      Agreed Michael. You might even say people in the Netherlands are addicted to their bikes. And I think that is a great thing :)

    • Urban_Snowshoer

      I disagree. I think the car is deeply embedded in the American identity, and anyone who doesn’t drive a car is considered suspect. At the local level this is mindset is changing, as some areas view bicycles in a positive light. However, on the whole I’d say the United States is still very much a car-centric culture.

      As far as mass-transit is concerned, mass-transit has proven successful. However, expansion is hindered partially out of financing, but largelyl because a certain number of people equate using mass-transit with being a loser.

  • Micheal Blue

    James, I think people are not addicted to cars per se. People can get attached to whatever is the more convenient, more pleasant way. If someone would make public transport or biking more convenient and more pleasant, people would abandon cars quite quickly.

  • http://www.theurbancountry.com/ James Schwartz

    Agreed Michael. You might even say people in the Netherlands are addicted to their bikes. And I think that is a great thing :)

  • http://www.CyclingForBeginners.com Cycling For Beginners

    Though I love riding bicycles, I live out in the suburbs – too far from my work to commute without seriously impacting time with my family. That’s an unfortunate reality for many folks in North America: our cities were built for motorized commuting. Though I will certainly give thought to commuting by bike when we buy our next house years from now, I can’t sell my current house in this market just to alter my commute.

    I mention all that to say that too many bicycle advocates have an “us vs. them” attitude pitting cyclists versus car owners. I like the distinction that you make in the last paragraph of your post. In my opinion “anti-car” bicycle advocates end up alienating more people than winning them over. Reminding people of their options engenders freedom, not telling them which option to choose.

    Best,
    Rob

  • http://www.cyclingforbeginners.com/ Cycling For Beginners

    Though I love riding bicycles, I live out in the suburbs – too far from my work to commute without seriously impacting time with my family. That’s an unfortunate reality for many folks in North America: our cities were built for motorized commuting. Though I will certainly give thought to commuting by bike when we buy our next house years from now, I can’t sell my current house in this market just to alter my commute.

    I mention all that to say that too many bicycle advocates have an “us vs. them” attitude pitting cyclists versus car owners. I like the distinction that you make in the last paragraph of your post. In my opinion “anti-car” bicycle advocates end up alienating more people than winning them over. Reminding people of their options engenders freedom, not telling them which option to choose.

    Best,
    Rob

  • Urban_Snowshoer

    The car is deeply embedded in the American identity, and anyone who doesn’t drive a car is considered suspect. At the local level this is changing, some areas view bicycles in a positive light; however, on the whole I’d say the United States is still very much a car-centric culture.

    The only way it is going to change is when people stop viewing cars as a symbol of independence–there’s a good argument to be made that cars are more symbol of dependence.

  • Generic Viagra

    I think that people do not depend on the machine itself. People can get caught that is more convenient and comfortable. If someone would have the public transport and cycling easier and more enjoyable, people abandon cars fast enough.
    Viagra
    Generic Viagra
    Kamagra

  • Generic Viagra

    I think that people do not depend on the machine itself. People can get caught that is more convenient and comfortable. If someone would have the public transport and cycling easier and more enjoyable, people abandon cars fast enough.

  • xxxtruthordare

    I think people do not depend on the machine itself. People can make it more convenient and comfortable. If anyone has a public transport easier and more enjoyable by bike, people abandon their cars fast enough.

  • http://www.nycparamount.com/restaurants.html New York City Hotel

    Very Nice article ,now a days automobile is very important to our day to day life. Whout Automobile we can’t Travel to long distance easely. But yes I totally agree with this article that we are addicted To automobiles.

  • http://www.nycparamount.com/restaurants.html New York City Hotel

    Very Nice article ,now a days automobile is very important to our day to day life. Whout Automobile we can’t Travel to long distance easely. But yes I totally agree with this article that we are addicted To automobiles.

  • Marcella Reece

    Riding a bike helps in keeping the environment. However, having a car at your disposal is still the best way to leave the house if you want to go errands far from your place. Getting auto finance from a trusted financial institution is the start of buying a car.

  • Pingback: Paying Employees To Bike To Work ← The Urban Country

  • Pingback: Getting To The Airport By Bike – The Return Trip ← The Urban Country

  • Pingback: Making Sure Nobody Walks or Bikes ← The Urban Country

  • John

    Unfortunately some of us don’t have the luxury to ride our bikes to go to work. Especially in rural areas like where I live. if I lived in the city, I would be more prone to get on my bike, but the city would have to be bike friendly.

    Best,

    John
    Auto Loans for People with Bad Credit