the space taken by the 14 people in cars here makes the city appear at a standstill. It makes it an uncomfortable place to walk, to shop, to be. Why does this make economic or social sense? Norwich, UK mid-1990s
How easily the new becomes the status quo, yet how hard it is to break the status quo. It is much harder to imagine change than to live it.
We’ve ruined our cities as places for people in order to accomodate the failings of the private motor vehicle. Ever bigger, wider roads, communities torn in half, people scared to allow their children to walk, the air quality plummeting.
So many public resources, in terms of space (as well as money) offered up to this cumbersome beast: yet still it fails dismally.
Congestion still chokes our cities; danger still hurtles through the streets daily, hourly. People in fear of the irresponsible, undertrained, faceless “motorist” decide to protect their loved ones; by driving them, “forced” into their cars therefore multiplying and embedding the problem.
Yet it wasn’t always so.
As far-sighted people look backwards to streets riven with people as they see the number of absurd short journeys undertaken by car, as they attempt to reverse the failing, as they fight to “free” people from their cars they are met with bewildered contempt.
Traffic is seen as inevitable, as a naturally occurring event.
The agency of individuals is denied them as language speaks of “accidents”, as driving is the assumed mode of transport.
The past is forgotten. Cities have been rebuilt, bulldozed and tarmacked to ensure that private motorised transport is the obvious, often the only, “choice”.
And when the ideas are voiced about recreating cities on a human scale allowing walking and cycling, the majority (encouraged by the wealthy car lobby) cannot envisage anything outside of this status quo. All solutions must still put the car at the centre – because that’s how it is now and therefore how it’s always been and how it must always be.
Never mind the sense, the desire, the necessity of change. Never mind the benefits to all (always excepting the multinationals involved in the auto and petroleum industries) of this change. We fear the change. We fear it always, until it has occurred.
Then it is embraced and defended as the new status quo.