Discussion of the means to reduce car's impact is clogged with ineffective options:
, "smart cars"
, "intelligent traffic/transport systems (ITS)"
, market mechanisms to make car users pay the full cost of cars through fuel/vehicle taxes, appeals/rewards
for voluntary restraint or car-pooling, exhortations to walk or cycle,
neighbourhood design to minimize car use or "softly, softly" gradual, often non-advertised changes to urban praxis by city governments to slowly phase out car dependence. Some are simply cynical refusals to face the problem, some, such as "car sharing/clubs" are relatively sincere. Some are partially successful, many are both expensive and almost useless.
- ITSs and "smart cars" save a few collisions and improve the utilization of roadspace; but make an
expensive system more so with unimproved walking conditions and only minor traffic improvements not matching those of transit.
- Laws stipulating car tuning, anti-pollution widgets, alternate fuels and "green cars" can reduce each
unit's air pollution and noise; but don't affect friction detritus or turbulence or avert a proliferation of units. They yet increase transport & regulation costs and often worsen the effect on sprawl, social
atomization, cost of living, social effects, resource demand and ramified consumerist pollution.
- Car-pooling is the worst of both worlds, as private travel one loses independent routing, as public
transport it only runs once a day. (more 1)It will simply never be adopted in numbers sufficient to make an impact on traffic volume.
- Conventional cycling is a pain in the bum, literally, and causes groin, testicular and back injury. In a
car ban the much better recumbent cycles would become prevalent.
- Car-minimal neighbourhood designs are follies; the car hegemony has a habit of demolishing inconvenient
neighbourhoods for uncluttered roadspace.
- Internalising cars' cost is a laudable goal; but problematic given the ubiquitous cost dispersal in the
car system's financing. It's hard to imagine a political state, itself imbued with car culture, acting
consistent with the goal and not discrediting it by riddling legislation with loopholes and loading process
with administrative overheads. Effective cost internalisation measures would probably be insupportably
complex in an accounting sense, particularly if individuated and not averaged over the culture. Averaging
would bring an inequitable impost on the poor and middle class who have no alternate transport or resources to
exploit legal loopholes, and this would imperil a government's re-election. It's easy to think this goal is
designed to fail; a car ban is more imaginable.
- Some successes have been attained, particularly in Copenhagen, with a non-confrontational softly-softly approach, over 30 years they've slowly expanded the car free areas and reduced the city parking spaces; but other first world cities have tried to emulate this approach without success. Superficially attractive as it allows a "positive" demeanour, advocates can say they are not "anti-car" but "pro-people"; this quiet revolution won't work elsewhere for two reasons, firstly Denmark is wealthy enough to afford duplicate car/transit infrastructure, which isn't the case in the third world; secondly Denmark doesn't host a car industry, their 30 year gains could be swept away in 6 months were a well funded and agitated lobby group to exist to affect public attitudes and change council policy &/or personnel. Happily for Denmark no industry funding or industrial labour pressure is ranged against the Copenhagen policies; in Australia, America or Britain the policy would have been reversed after a short time, crushed in its infancy, as many attempts by city governments actually have been. In these places where the car culture is not merely habit but a cerebral and self conscious movement only an overt and explicit policy could win out
The only current measures worth affirming and proliferating are those that explicitly ban the car from areas of the city: compulsory car banned city centres, streets and neighbourhoods, car banned days, pedestrian malls and dedicated bus and cycling lanes.
Car traffic is a tragedy of the commons; all restraint measures that are left voluntary engage the "self
eliminating conscience" dynamic, in status and power if not literally as extinction, and anyone who walks or
cycles in the car traffic may sense the imminence of the latter
Voluntarism encourages and makes life easier for the conscienceless driving group, increasing their power
without fostering alternatives, that's why it's a tragedy, doing right encourages the wrongdoers, consequently
voluntarism achieves nothing and is discredited; a law must compel all to abandon car use.
Ban the Car