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    I’m afraid that (after the first paragraph, which is excellent) this reads like a lot of nonsense.

    And the whole reason we “need” cars in the first place is because we spread everything out by making our roads so big! It’s a circular problem.

    Really? New York City is hardly “spread out”, even if you look at Brooklyn (Queens just, maybe, possibly, begins to push the boundaries of “spread out”, and of Staten Island there is hardly need to speak); our roads are not terribly big (many streets are one-way and so narrow that if you double-park, you block all traffic); and yet…

    … and yet lots of people own cars! And need cars! This, in the city with by far the best public transport infrastructure in America!! The fact is that public transport simply does not suffice for all the needs of all the people—not even close!—no matter how good you make it (barring utterly utopian scenarios involving flying cars and/or instantaneous matter transportation a la Star Trek).

    The problem is the 400 single-occupant personal cars and trucks cramming up the rest of that road, full of people who are only driving because they don’t realize there is a better way.

    Oh? And what is that better way…? Let’s read…


    Get the hell out of here.

    Fight the “Not in My Back Yard” tendencies of most people, who object to new buildings or higher-density living near where they live. What these people are probably afraid of is not the presence of more people, but the car traffic they would bring.

    Speaking as a person with exactly such tendencies—and who has seen his neighborhood, and those nearby, change over the course of a quarter-century (I have indeed lived for 25 years—a year here and a few months there excepted—on the same block)—no. Wrong. The presence of more people is exactly what I don’t want.

    In a dense city, and even in US-style suburban sprawl, a bike will get you there faster than a car most of the time.


    I have a car. and I have a bike, and I live in a dense city. Again I say: bullshit.

    Look: I, too, hate those American suburbs which are just giant parking lots with gigantic roads threading through them, with not a sidewalk to be seen. But the idea that this can be fixed by abandoning cars, and biking and walking everywhere, is manifestly insane.

    Let’s please not succumb to the temptation of thinking that just because a problem definitely exists, and we can accurately characterize it, that there must be a solution—much less, a solution that’s known to us.

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      You know what, I’m going to say more about this, because, after thinking about it some more, I think that this is not an isolated instance of someone being wrong on the internet, but is actually an example of a broader class of bias.

      Let’s look at some of my (and my family’s, generally) actual recent uses of my car, and for each, ask: can this be replaced with walking? with biking? with public transport?

      1. I drove my grandmother to a doctor’s appointment.

      Could we have walked there? Biked? Not worth dignifying with a response. Public transport? (Remember, this is New York City! There are buses we could’ve taken!) Yeah, sure; when you’re my grandmother’s age (she’s coming up on 90!), we’ll see how easy it is for you to walk to the bus stop, get on the bus, take the bus, get off the bus, wait for the next bus (the trip requires two routes), get on the bus, take the bus, get off the bus, walk from the bus stop to the doctor’s office, and then do it again in reverse… might as well not bother visiting the doctor at all; the net health effect will be the same!

      2. I drove to a supermarket to do my weekly shopping.

      Could I have walked there? In principle, yes. It’s just within what I consider to be walking distance (about half an hour each way at a brisk pace). Could I have walked back, carrying a week’s worth of groceries? No. Bike? No way. Public transport? Ok, possible. It would’ve taken me easily four times as long, altogether (at rush hour! but actually I drove there late at night; then it would’ve taken me ten times as long, and no, I am not exaggerating).

      3. I drove my grandmother to do her weekly shopping.

      See #1.

      4. My mother drove across the city for a doctor’s appointment.

      Could she have walked? It’s 20+ miles, so, no. Biked? Don’t be ridiculous. Public transport? Yes, possible. It would’ve taken approximately five times as long each way, at least (again this is not an exaggeration), and would’ve been tremendously more exhausting. It would mean wasting a day instead of a morning.

      5. I drove to a bunch of places, on errands. (The post office, the library, the hardware store, etc.)

      Could I have walked? In principle, yes, but: these places are all in different directions, and to/from some of them I had to carry bulky things. Bike? Again, in principle, yes, in practice this would be very unwieldy and inconvenient. Public transport? Forget about it; instead of 2 hours, it would be a whole day gone, wasted on waiting for buses, transferring, slowly riding, etc.

      6. I drove myself and several friends to a movie theater to catch a movie.

      Could we have walked? Not a chance. Too far. Biked? Ditto. (Some of my friends aren’t in the sort of physical shape that it takes to bike across the city. Should this bar them from such collective outings until they can manage a cyclist’s physique? That’s not to mention the time this would’ve taken…) Public transport? In principle, yes. It would’ve taken approximately five times longer, and the tremendous imposition on everyone’s schedules (people do have to work, you know, and have other obligations besides…) would in fact mean that we just wouldn’t have gone, at all.

      And this, again, is in New York City; even out here in Brooklyn the population density is high (37 thousand people per square mile; Queens’ is 21 thousand; Manhattan, 72 thousand; compare to Chicago at 12 thousand or Los Angeles at 8.5 thousand). Our public transport infrastructure is the best in the country. Sidewalks are everywhere.

      The bias that gives rise to the “forget cars; let’s all walk and bike everywhere!” suggestion seems to be something like this:

      “I am young, healthy, fit. I have no family or family obligations. I have no health problems. I have copious amounts of free time. Walking and biking works for me. And what works for me must work for everyone.”

      But it doesn’t.

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