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Death by Automobile

Automobiles in our future?


This article first appeared in the Holiday 1997 edition of the Bicycle Habitat newsletter.


Charlie Speaks: Automobile inherently flawed

By Charlie McCorkell

This month's piece arises from a chance comment by a friend of mine: "Everybody knows someone whose life was ended in a car accident," that's one degree of separation. I have had two in-laws killed by motorists (in separate accidents) and I know at least eight other people who were killed by cars.

The bicycle politic often asks for a safe place to ride on the street, a place to lock a bike, respect from motorists and police, etc. I've asked for these things many times. My reason for wanting them is to make my life easier and better, but underneath I have a more compelling reason -- the future. In my 'ideal' future I don't see a place for a machine that kills 50,000 people a year, maims and hospitalizes millions of others, leaves families in tatters, pollutes the air, and exhausts our fossil fuel reserves at a ridiculous rate while consuming a fair portion of many families' disposable income.

Over the next few issues this newsletter will explore the relationship of the automobile to our society, and to the society of the near future. My personal slant is that the car is inherently flawed and the transportation infrastructure that supports it is equally flawed. I also believe that personal rapid transportation is desirable but not necessary. You are invited to submit works of fact, fiction or opinion on either side of the issue.

These pieces could be methods of lowering the kill rate and accident rate; ways of ending America's love affair with the automobile; what's right about America's love affair with the automobile; driving forces for change (oil, pollution, congestion, etc.); ways the automobile has affected our life style; near science fiction pieces such as installing computer governors on cars that respond to city laws making it impossible to exceed the speed limit or run red lights, etc., and what this might mean; personal experiences about living with or without a car; the personal effect of an automobile accident on you, a friend or relative; and the list goes on and on. I think you get it -- in short, almost anything. Mentioning checkable statistics or the benefits of bicycling is always a plus.