FREEDOM OF THE ROAD

The right, without negotiation or permission, to unimpeded personal movement where, when, and how one pleases over open roads, is the car culture's vision of nature and is presumed to be natural and taken for granted. Even the more advanced statements of this civilization accept this hegemonic belief; the Copenhagen Declaration of the Car Free Cities Alliance affirms it. (note 1) This "right" is a car hegemony article-of-faith; but in fact it has never existed.

Animals move warily, migrate in predated herds, Mesolithic hunter-gatherer humanity walked in groups around one delineated area repeatedly, and straying from it would die from want of water or food or conflict with other groups. The earliest roads were "free" but equally free for waylaying which provided many a band's livelihood. Most early civilizations didn't use roads except within their own towns, trade and cartage was consigned to the rivers where the water provided some security, and any raiders would need boats that could be located and sunk by punitive expeditions. The only places where land transport was used over any distance were waterless regions like Arabia, and that mostly in post-Roman times and subject to special religious truce and protection arrangements.

The modern idea of undisturbed travel was created when Imperial Rome started overseeing the roads just before the time of Christ (more 1) , 2000 years ago during the Pax Romana, and far from being natural is one of the highest artificial conditions of civilization; and far from being an innate freedom, it took, and takes, the supervision and resources of the most ubiquitous, wealthy and powerful states to maintain. It is a product of the extent, strength and stability of the state, not of nature, nor the automotive showroom, nor vehicle speed. Civilization, not vehicles, ensures personal mobility (more 2). Rome, the father of road systems, even acknowledged the undesirability of wheeled vehicles in the cities themselves; Julius Caesar and later Emperors banned wheeled traffic in Rome during daylight hours.

If the modern nation state fell, roads would be closed within months by predatory activity (more 3). The democratic state should have, and does have the right to dictate the means one uses to travel (more 4). Freedom to drive is not an inalienable right; it is subordinate to the state civil contract, outside this no individual could independently ensure it, achieving it would require force of numbers, subject to its own group contract, so it is not an individual right either (more 5).

Ban the Car     Home Page