Photo credit Nissan Primera Smash and Tag group via Facebook.
By the end of this year, the world is schedule to reach a milestone - a billion vehicles on the roads. Coincidentally, there are also now one billion bikes in circulation, nearly half of them in China.
Photo credit VirtualErn via flickr courtesy Creative Commons license.
The thought of a billion cars is daunting, but even more scary is that we seem to be speeding toward an even bigger number - two billion cars, which Daniel Sperling thinks we amass in the next two decades. We generally take for granted that cars are the ultimate mobility machine - so it may be good to periodically revisit what's not so nice about the auto in order helps keep car culture in check, and give bike culture and ped culture equal opportunity, especially in cities.
1) Its New Car Smell Isn't A Good Sign.The smell of new cars is pleasant to some, but possibly noxious for the health of us all. In the U.S. there still aren't any regulations (!) on what chemicals can be used in car interiors, even after a well-known 2001 CSIRO Australian study brought toxic chemical offgassing of car interiors to light. The Japanese Automotive Manufacturers Association has set some voluntary guidelines, so a Prius, for example, may be less stinky than a Ford.
2) It May Get You There Faster (opinions vary) But It Won't Get You There Healthier.Unfortunately, pressing the gas pedal and the brake and turning the steering wheel just don't constitute exercise, and cars are one of the reasons Americans are the most obese nation on earth. What we gain in car convenience we give up in health. Biking, walking and even public tranport are healthier options, because they all three entail some much needed daily exercise.
3) It isn't electric, at least not yet.Electric cars, oh won't they be wonderful. When the arrive. For amidst the hype are the telling numbers. The experts say that by 2030 between 13 and 40 million e-vehicles will be on the roads. Compare that to the one billion already out there and it just doesn't look as impressive.
4) It Gets You Tangled in Traffic, Which Isn't Getting Better.Traffic is one of the most stressful parts of many people's days. A recent report by IBM found that car drivers perceive traffic as getting worse in the last three years. Thirty percent of the 8,000 people IBM surveyed reported greater stress, while 27% reported greater anger. IBM even calls this periodic survey the Computer Pain Index.
5) It's a Death Trap.In industrialized nations such as the U.S., fatalities are falling. That's the good news. According to the World Health Organization and World Bank report "The Global Burden of Disease," however, by 2020 traffic accidents will be the third biggest cause of "death and disease" worldwide. That's above war, violence, and "self-inflicted injuries." Traffic fatalities are still the leading cause of death for U.S. children.Read more about car culture at TreeHugger:
Vehicle Abstinence: Youths Waiting Longer to Drive
Survey: Are Cars Still Status Symbols?
David Suzuki: Our Obsession With Private Automobiles Is Unsustainable