The Case Against Cars

The look on the receptionist’s face told me I had said something wrong. It was a maternal expression, like that of an elderly woman who has found her grandkid outside in the cold with a runny nose but no jacket. There was genuine concern in her eyes, but her pursed lips suggested a certain annoyed disbelief: Just what were you thinking, if you were thinking at all?

“You don’t have a car?” she asked, accusingly.

“I don’t have a car,” I replied.

It was my first day at a new job, and I had taken the bus that morning. That bus took me to a subway—a futuristic train that goes underneath Los Angeles in order to get from one place to another—so I didn’t need a car, just like I didn’t need the people’s history of the local parking situation she had graciously given me. Seriously, the subway is, like, right over there.

She nodded her head and forced a smile the way tourists do when they don’t understand a word you are saying.

This happens almost daily: We, the car-less of Los Angeles, must confess our lack of an automobile as if it were a character defect on par with betting on dogfighting. You risk being judged not only at your workplace but at the supermarket, where the teenage bagger asks if you need any help carrying those boxes of generic cereal out to your four-wheeled expression of self. Having a car shows that you have the financial means to own a car. Not having a car makes people assume you live at home and have an unhealthy relationship with your mother—and as sexy local singles say, that’s a deal-breaker.

So it’s a bit heretical when I say I like not having a car. It’s actually rather nice to leave the driving to someone else and not have to worry about steering your personal air-conditioned death box at 70 miles an hour on a freeway full of idiots—and hundreds of thousands of people in the LA metro region agree with me on this. Sure, it takes a bit longer to get somewhere—30 minutes instead of 15—but you also don’t have to spend 20 minutes circling the block for parking whenever you go out. And there are buses and trains that go almost anywhere, and by taking them you free yourself from worry about car payments, parking tickets, and DUIs.

You also don’t need to worry about getting mutilated in a horrific car accident. According to the US government, more than 2.3 million people were injured and 33,500 died on America’s roads in 2012. For people in the US between the ages of one and 44, motor vehicles are the leading cause of death. Avoid driving on a freeway and you significantly reduce your chance of being injured or killed on one.


This is why I have a love-hate relationship with my cars. I’d much rather live without the perceived need of driving a car to get anywhere.

Included in the car woes we can skip: not stressing about whether the thing you spent / are spending many thousands of dollars on is being damaged/stolen/towed when you’re not around it. Will it even still be there when you go looking? You don’t know!

But yeah, the death trap thing mostly.

Hamburg is currently working on a plan that would eliminate the need for cars within the next 15-20 years, making the city a greener, healthier and more pleasant place to live. The city’s proposed Grünes Netz, or “Green Network” will create pedestrian and cycle paths to connect the city’s existing, substantial green spaces, and provide safe, car-free commuter routes for all residents. (via Hamburg Announces Plans to Become a Car-Free City Within 20 Years | Inhabitat - Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building)

“Driver behaviour contributes to more than six crashes out of ten: the attending officer attributed at least one CF to the car driver in 62% of crashes.
Cyclist behaviour contributes to almost half of all crashes: the attending officer attributed at least one CF to the cyclist in 48% of crashes
Driver and rider behaviour alone explain more than three quarters of crashes, to the exclusion of external explanations: environmental factors are only reported in 24% of cases”

Worth a look, this report analyses over 6,000 traffic accidents involving cyclists in the UK.

Exploring Responsibility For Cycle Crashes – An Objective Approach | Road Safety Analysis


This one’s for you Mr isay. I imagine it’s how you take your morning coffee.

Tour de France: Yorkshire prepares for bike invasion as race comes to UK


Jim Davies photograph accompanying Andrew Eames’ account of cycling around Bhutan


Australia may have brought us a Tour de France winner but it looks like the country is still dominated by petrolheads going on this cover from The Australian magazine. Commentary on the magazine cover can be found over at The Ride.


Moulton Bicycle Aka Bicycle Of The Future (1963)

From British Pathé’s collection of archival films.

A P-plate driver who used her mobile phone behind the wheel 44 times before running down a cyclist near Koroit has been fined $4500 and lost her licence for nine months.

Kimberley Davis, 21, of Grant Street, Port Fairy, yesterday pleaded guilty in the Warrnambool Magistrates Court to dangerous driving. She was originally charged with 47 offences covering each time she had used her phone.

The cyclist suffered a spinal fracture which required surgery and placement in a spinal cage at Melbourne’s Austin Hospital. He was originally told he could be left a paraplegic and spent three months recovering. He also suffered a broken big toe and lacerations to his head and body.

The court heard that the victim couldn’t believe that Davis rang triple-0 after the accident but refused to offer him help after she parked 100 metres up the road. Even more stunning was Davis’ answers when interviewed by police two days after the accident and asked about using her phone.

“I just don’t care because I’ve already been through a lot of bullshit and my car is like pretty expensive and now I have to fix it,” she told a police officer. “I’m kind of pissed off that the cyclist has hit the side of my car. I don’t agree that people texting and driving could hit a cyclist. I wasn’t on my phone when I hit the cyclist.”

“In the Northern Territory, adults riding on footpaths or bike paths don’t have to wear a helmet. It’s worth noting that census figures show Darwin has the nation’s highest percentage of people cycling to work.”
“…it should be noted that the average ambulating Australian has significantly more chance of being killed by lightning than by a cyclist”


If I can’t have cobbles anymore, that’s fine, I will just have to settle for the dirt farm tracks of one of my favorite races of the year, Tro-Bro Léon. We talked for a long time about whether it was best to shoot Amstel over TBL - on a professional level, yes, most likely. In the end though, it was hard not to give the nod to a race we truly love. This one is special - can’t wait for Sunday.