It’s time to ditch car dependent infrastructure

Ben Choucroun

Every year, Redwood is the scene of heated discussion regarding the distribution of parking permits as students complain that there are not enough parking permits on campus. However, the problem with parking is merely a symptom of a larger societal issue: car dependency. We have decided to structure our cities and lives around automobiles.  Unfortunately, the consequences of that decision are being felt across the country. Cars are unsafe (as evidenced by the millions of people injured annually by car accidents), terrible for the environment and take up too much space. If we want to fix our parking system, we must sustainably redesign our cities around walking, biking and public transportation rather than automobiles.

On top of being more environmentally friendly, walking, biking and public transportation are far safer than driving. Every year, over 46,000 people die from car crashes in the United States alone. Additionally, 4.8 million people are annually injured seriously enough to require medical attention. These numbers are both incredibly tragic while being painfully preventable. For instance, biking and walking accidents do not typically cause serious injury or death, unlike car crashes. Plus, drunk driving deaths, which account for many car-related fatalities, would be greatly reduced with a better public transportation system.

Additionally, cars are catastrophic for the environment. Cars emit massive amounts of carbon dioxide, seriously contributing to global warming. Even electric cars, which many assume are environmentally friendly, harm the environment. For example, Elon Musk’s famed Tesla could not be built without cobalt, a rare earth metal mined by child laborers, some as young as four, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. On the other hand, bikes emit zero measurable amounts of carbon dioxide and are manufactured much more sustainably since they use no rare earth metals. 

However, the car’s most overlooked flaw is the amount of space it requires. Ugly, gray highways slash through beautiful natural landscapes. Massive parking garages dominate cityscapes. With endless suburban sprawls stretching for miles and no end in sight, many roads are virtually impassable for pedestrians and bikes. Our current concrete-dominated car-dependent infrastructure is both incredibly space inefficient and unappealing to look at.

One common argument in favor of cars is that they lead to greater individual freedom and that public transportation restricts freedom of movement. However, this is incorrect. A well-funded and efficient network of paths and public transportation options is far superior to a car, as most public transportation options don’t need to deal with traffic and road closures like cars do. Besides, a city designed around public transportation and walking/biking frees its citizens from needing to purchase a $20,000 car to travel.

There are available solutions to our society’s car problem. Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, has redesigned their infrastructure around biking. The results are impressive since the city looks much prettier and is far more eco-friendly than other cities. Many college campuses, like the University of California Davis, forbid passenger vehicles on their roads. Ultimately, it would be ideal if cities could ban cars in many high-density areas, only allowing essential services to pass through. Additionally, urban planners should avoid creating massive suburban sprawls, focusing on higher-density cities around walking and biking.

However, while this may not seem plausible, especially to the average citizen, hearing a few examples of how to take action may help people feel more capable and the benefits more attainable. There are several ways that ordinary people can strive for societal solutions to the car dependency we so desperately need. 

To start, people can encourage lawmakers to fund public transportation better. Protesting the corporations that create and advocate for a car-dependent infrastructure is another way to help fight automotive dependency. Furthermore, joining a political movement against car-dependent infrastructure can help foster more sustainable city development. In addition to striving towards ecological changes, many environmental movements also advocate against automotive dependency. If individuals effectively fight against car-dependent infrastructure, we can secure a safe and more eco-friendly world for future generations. And, of course, it might help fix our parking problem too.

If you are a student, what type of transportation do you most frequently use to get to school?


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