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Media’s Over-Glamorization of Automobiles 4

Car in snow

Photo courtesy of  Doug on Flickr

The mainstream media in North America has a tendency to over-glamorize automobiles. It’s no wonder, since a significant portion of their advertising revenue comes from automobile companies.

As we pointed out last November, the mainstream media also has a tendency to under-glamorize bicycling, leading you to believe that you need to own all the gear to get you through a terrible snowstorm.

But the truth is, that snow storm will probably only come twice or thrice a year (here in Toronto anyway). I say leave your bicycle at home if the snow is too deep to ride in. It will likely get cleared up within a day or two.

But what if the tables were turned? What if the mainstream media over-glamorized bicycling, and under-glamorized driving?

Well, they’d probably show photos of people digging their car out of the snow:

Car in snow

Photo courtesy of Ben W

They might show photos of people shovelling their suburban laneways:

Shovel snow in driveway

Photo courtesy of Peter Dutton

They might show you photos of cars in the ditch:

Car in snow

Photo courtesy of Michael Pereckas

Car in snow

Photo courtesy of Mike Haugland

… and videos of people slipping and sliding on ice:

If they really wants to share the truth, then they might emphasize the fact that car crashes kill 40,000 people in the United States every single year. As Fox News noted in a rare 2005 article:

“Imagine a plane full of people crashing, killing everyone on board, every single day. That’s how many people die on America’s roads daily, says the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.”

They might also tell you about the thousands of dollars that you will spend every year to insure yourself, since you are at risk of maiming or killing someone.

You might see the faces of the 900,000+ people who die from heart disease every year in the United States.

Or the graves of the 380,000 people who die worldwide every year from air pollution – of which automobiles are a significant contributor.

And instead of showing photos of this “winter bicyclist”:

Toronto Star Winter Cycling

Photo courtesy of the Toronto Star

They would show you photos of a winter bicyclist on a regular winter day:


Photo by Marc van Woudenberg / Amsterdamize


Photo by Marc van Woudenberg / Amsterdamize


Photo by Marc van Woudenberg / Amsterdamize

James D. Schwartz is the editor of The Urban Country. You can contact James at

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4 thoughts on “Media’s Over-Glamorization of Automobiles

  1. PaddyAnne Jan 22,2011 1:10 am

    While watching the video’s, all I could think of was how personal cars and trucks should be banned when its snowy and icy out. Only emergency vehicles allowed!

  2. Ryan Jan 22,2011 11:25 am

    I wish people would realize how few times a year there are when you actually need to leave the bike at home.
    Yesterday was the first time since I was cycling where I had to go out and couldn’t ride my bike.

    I think it was two or three years ago when we had a massive snow storm here (snow up the the knees on the roads). Things were fine in the morning, so my Dad rode his bike to work like always. Coming home? He had to end up walking it. He had a good laugh as he passed vehicle after vehicle stuck in the middle of the road because they simply couldn’t move.

    As for media’s over-glamorization of cars, look no further than the million or so car commercials we’re forced to watch on TV and listen to on the radio daily.

    Maybe it’s just me, but these commercials that show just one vehicle cruising along in an empty downtown core seems utterly unrealistic.
    Or how about the vehicles speeding along on a quiet country road.

    I’m not sure if you’ve seen either of the following commercials, but it furthers North America’s car culture showcase:

    1. Wendy’s commercial showing 30 seconds of drive thru traffic. Showing a monster & fire truck going through, yet bikes are still not allowed.

    2. I believe it’s a KFC commercial, where a police car is chasing a speeding mini-van. They both get out and go into the store to get the “deal”. Then the woman from the mini-van and the cop walk out together.

  3. sexify Feb 2,2011 6:23 pm

    Thank you for an inspiring article!

    Although it’s summer down here in New Zealand, I was in Seoul last winter and the snow was thick on the ground for a fortnight.

    Threw on a warm pea coat, thermal socks and gloves, and simply allowed myself time to go slow and carefully. Common sense really.

    (Being allowed to ride on the wide, safe pavement [sidewalk, if you prefer] definitely helped.)


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