Fight Climate Change, De-emphasis Auto Transportation

David Trammel's picture

Our dependency for transportation by automobile is going to end one way or another. Either we do it ourselves or the Collapse does it for us.

"How to end the American obsession with driving"

I don't have much hope we'll do it here in America, though fighting locally and trying to encourage policies to help are useful.

If you can, I think personal example has a lot going for it. If people see you walking or on a bicycle, or a kickscooter or whatever, they are more likely to decide to try it themselves because it won't seem weird. And it's easier to argue for better infrastructure if people are visibly already trying to use what is available than if next to no one is.

Using alternative transport also means that you can give good advice on how to improve the means of transport you're now using if the government asks for public input, because you know what's there, what's working and what isn't.

Over the past year and a bit, I've switched from using the bus to using a kickscooter a lot of the time, and it has changed the way I see the city.

I've never had a car, so I can't really speak to that, but I solidly recommend active transport if you're physically capable of it. I love my kickscooter more than I thought I would, and I've been surprised by how few things I actually need the bus to do. I know that this isn't possible for everyone, but I'd already tried cycling and gave up because it didn't play well with my medical issues, so I suspect that a lot more people could get around sans fossil fuels than currently do or think they can. Just have to find the right alternate transport method for the place and person.

Since I've never owned a car, I find I avoid car-centric locations or things I can't get to easily without one. Sometimes I can't, and it then becomes a big pain. That is a big issue people who want to drastically cut back on car use or stop entirely are going to have to face all at once. Can they get to work by other means? I've turned down jobs because I couldn't safely and reliably get to the location... the places you go for other reasons might change. I picked my current church in large degree because it is two blocks from home, and I knew I'd be more involved in the church if I could get to and from easily. Some hobbies or aspects of hobbies become much harder. When I was a teenager, I was involved in the SCA, society for creative anachronism. I tried attending a few things where I am now, and dropped out again rapidly because carting all my gear around was a total pain, and some of the main events were impossible to get to without a vehicle. Sure you might be able to carpool... but can you be sure the person driving isn't going to end up drinking at the event and then your only way home is questionably safe?

I've been seeing an explosion in bicycles and assorted small electric cycle/scooter etc things over the past year and a half or so. I agree that collapse is likely to force many away from their cars who don't leave them willingly, but I think there's already a move away from fossil fueled vehicles locally. Maybe it's just away from buses. I've heard a fair number of people moved from the bus to buying a car over the pandemic.

I'm not in the USA, but I have lived in the USA in the past and Canada does have a fair bit of similarity in transport issues, so I figured my 2cents were probably relevant.

I'd also love to see driving lose some of its subsidies and privileges. The hue and cry some people put up over putting in a few protected bike lanes! Seriously.

But if we're going to make driving more expensive and less convenient, we really do need to build those bike lanes, and put in that mass transit, and make sure that there are sufficient, wide enough sidewalks for people to walk or use wheelchairs on.

Basically, both carrot and stick are needed to get people out of their cars...

though you're right that they're going to do it anyway due to resource depletion and economic circumstances if society doesn't get its act together.

I'll put in a plug for Strong Towns. They're a great website devoted to all things human-scaled in town development and transportation.

Once you learn about stroads, you'll always be able to recognize them.

A road moves cars from point A to point B very fast. They tend to be limited access because cars and people together or lots of starts and stops cause problems. A road is car-centric. They tend to have high speed limits.

A street moves people around. It's got houses, shops, restaurants, apartments, businesses of every kind. Everyone from kids in strollers to old ladies in walkers use streets. There are lots of stops and starts and cut-ins. A street is people and business centric. It's got sidewalks and trees and bikes. The speed limit is very low.

A stroad combines the worst of both worlds: loads of cars trying to very fast while avoiding hordes of pedestrians and there's a stop sign or traffic light every 20 feet and curb cuts galore to allow people and vehicles in and out of driveways. The speed limit is ALWAYS too fast for a street and ALWAYS too slow for a road, frustrating everyone.

Stroads are dangerous.

Here's the link:

I like Strong Towns. They have some interesting things to say.

David Trammel's picture

Strangely the pandemic meant less cars on the road, which meant people drove faster and more dangerously.

Pedestrians deaths are skyrocketing too, especially in poorer neighborhoods.

Yeah, I nearly got run over a month or two into the pandemic. I was walking to the petstore to get crickets for my geckos. The bus I used to take has changed its route and no longer goes near there, and it involves walking along and crossing roads with a lot of big trucks, and it always feels like the cars are watching the trucks and not thinking about pedestrians. What happened was I was on the crosswalk, crossing with the correct sign, and a small red car swung out through the intersection. he had his head away from me and the direction he was going and obviously hadn't seen me. I froze and couldn't move a muscle (no time, which direction should I run back or forwards), and fortunately he finally turned his head, saw me, freaked out and stopped about three feet from me. "Are you all right?" he said. I reassured him I was okay, finished crossing the street and sat down until I stopped shaking. I now no longer use that crosswalk, but I still have to walk that route regularly, because one of my geckos insists on live crickets and they're a pain to culture.

I've also nearly gotten into kickscooter/bike accidents about 3 times, 2 of them my own fault. I'm improving, but there is a learning curve and I do mess up. I looked in the right place at the right time, I do not know how I managed not to see that cyclist. We both managed to stop without anyone hitting anyone or falling off but I wish I knew how I didn't see her. I think maybe I had a car-shaped search image in my head. At least with bikes and especially kickscooters, you're a lot less likely to kill or seriously injure someone because you're going so much slower, even if you do mess up.

I'm very careful crossing Chocolate Avenue near our house. It's where 422 narrows down from four lanes to two, plus it's a busy cross street. I use the cross walk signal which isn't nearly long enough (thank you, PennDot, you &^%^%$#).

When my hip is acting up, I use a cane. I made a point of buying the shiniest, pinkest cane I could find to make it easier to see. No discretion or subtlety for me!

The real issue is that once you've started to cross, someone making a turn is now behind you and while you look both ways, you don't twist almost all the way around to see what's coming up behind you. Electric cars are actually dangerous because they come up behind you with ZERO noise. I've been surprised by several of them connected to the nearby Tech Center.

Eventually, as more people walk, bike, use scooters, and the like, motorists will pay more attention simply because they see more of us. In the meantime, if the police ticketed aggressively, you'd see more drivers paying attention.

In PA, according to PennDot, if I, pedestrian, stand at the curb and wave my foot at the street, drivers are supposed to stop -- in both directions no less -- so I can cross safely. As if.

It will make my life easier.

Our long descent in the US would certainly be eased by moving away from our auto-centric habits. Public transit, biking and walking are all more energy efficient, provided they are possible in your local. Given our current auto-centric transport system, car pooling would be an excellent intermediate step, yielding big energy savings with no changes in our current road system. It was quite popular in the 70's.