The big car addiction

in life •  10 months ago

Quite many people tend to love their cars and the freedom it gives - and they tend to become angry whenever politicians come up with suggestions attempting to curb the traffic. I do suppose this opinion may be fairly unpopular: the car addiction is dangerous and unhealthy.

I grew up as a pedestrian. My mother would walk with me to the kinder garden (long steep hill! I believe it was very good for my health), later I went by feet to the school. My mother did in general not do "taxi driving" for me - if I was to go to some activities or visit someone I would mostly have to bike there or take the bus. Then I got old enough to take the driving license, I sort of took over my mothers car, and for a while wherever I'd go, I'd be driving. All until I wrecked the car ... whops, back into pedestrian mode.

random photo of cars from mediawikiimage source

Facing my personal car addiction

It was a total shock, and a big realization: cars are extremely addictive. As a child, I was very much able to get around, either by bike or by public transport. Adults are supposed to be more independent, more capable - and yet, there I was, 20 years old, and getting around was difficult. I had no idea on when the buses were going, where they were going, how to pay for them, nor how to find out. Biking? It was horrible - as a child I'd go on biking, kilometer after kilometer, and I'd climb the hills without problem. At age 20, I'd get exhausted only after a single flat kilometer. Biking in bad weather, or in the winter time? That wasn't a problem at all for me as a child (we have the saying in Norway, there exists no bad weather, only bad clothing), but at the age of 20, it had become an unthinkable experience. I had become a car addict!

Two years later, I had access to a car and I would use it to get to the university if and only if I had a very good reason for doing it - but the "good reason" became more and more of an "excuse" rather than a "reason", like one day I had a paper that I didn't want to become crumpled, so of course I had to put it on the passenger seat of the car and drive it to the university. Then again, car was completely frozen down with very hard ice - I realized that cleaning the windows for ice would take more time than biking to the university, so eventually I used a rucksack and went on biking, realizing how far down the slippery slope I had gotten ...

Over the past decades I have mostly been having car(s), but it has been a bit off and on, and I became quite aware of the addiction problem. I thought we would manage without after moving to Oslo, my wife disagrees.

The society turned car addicted

I also had another realization - the car addiction worked not only on the personal level, but also for the society as such.

In my childhood in the early 80s, our town was quite centralized, we had gotten some few suburb communities with residential zones and some small local shopping centers relatively far away from the town center, but most of the commercial activity was located in the town center.

In the late 80s, we got something completely novel: a huge shop located quite far outside the town center, where land was cheap. We also got our first roundabout nearby this shopping center, and we got our first traffic lights downtown. This shop could operate with better selections and lower prices than the shops downtown. The caveat was that one would need to go driving for some 2*10 minutes, but there was another benefit, one could roll the shopping cart out on the parking and directly to the car. Well, this shopping center - and later, this shopping area - would slowly compete out quite many of the shops in the town center. Worse, quite many small local food shops in the residential areas were also disappearing, forcing people to drive out to the big shop several times a week to buy milk.

In retro perspective this huge shop was rather small - they have expanded it and built a shopping center around it and expanded it and expanded it all over again, and in the meanwhile other shopping centers and big shops came in the same area - it has efficiently become a giant shopping area.

image of a big car park belonging to a shopping centreimage source

At age 19, I found that I frequently needed to visit this shopping area - but that was rather unpleasant as it was totally designed for being visited with a car. It's a bad cycle - people buy cars because they need them for driving to the shop, and the shops gets optimized for car visitors since everyone has a car.

Even worse feedback loops - quite many parents drive their kids to school because it's too dangerous to walk to the school. But why is it dangerous? Of course, because of the car traffic! And, the parents driving their kids to school is a significant part of it! At least for my children, the most dangerous part is the last 20 metres to the school, right outside the school gate, with lots of stressed parents coming in, stopping to drop of some child, and then trying to turn around the car, of course they are in a hurry to get to work.

There are lots of similar feedback loops at play. Like, for a bus service to be useful the buses should go frequently and the tickets should be cheap. However, as people abandon the bus and starts driving, there will be fewer passengers, the bus company needs to raise the fares and reduce the frequency, in the end only people that really needs to use the bus will be using the service.

Even though car owners love to complain on the big burden they have due to various taxes and fees, I believe there are quite many hidden subsidies for car ownership in our society. I also think there are many problems with car traffic - in Norway we've been quite obsessed with electric cars lately, they're heavily subsidized - I think it's quite bad, electrification solves the problem with tailpipe emissions, but there are so many other problems. For instance, I cannot ever remember to have observed any traffic jams in my home town as a child . They have become horrible there over the past decades.

Anyway, I think I'm done ranting for today. :-)

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Well, all these things are making us lazy, WE don't have a car, but we do have bikes.
when I was a school student, I was a cycling boy who used to go everyone on his bicycle, Bicycle keeps you fit, It's like an exercise, then my school's ends and I got a motorbike, this is where the disaster started, Wherever I had to go, motorbike become the only option. now I'm in university and i am motorbike addict and i really hate my this habit :/

Yes, on the one hand, cars make the road dangerous. On the other hand - it's still so convenient! Especially in cities where the distance is longer, and you need to travel by public transport with a transfer!

But electric cars are definitely good. Otherwise it will soon be impossible to breathe in the cities.


In general I think cars are less useful in cities than on the country side.

In cities there are traffic jams, there are red lights, and it's difficult to find parking, often one ends up with long walking distance from wherever one found a place to park and to the destination. When counting door-to-door time, the bike often tends to be the fastest option here in Oslo, at least during the traffic peaks. It seems like the best option is to have a foldable bike and travel the bigger distances by train.

On the country side, in small towns and villages, one can just jump into the car, drive directly where one wants and park there, very convenient indeed.

In the cities at least it's possible to travel by public transport with a transfer. At the country side one may find that the bus only goes twice a day, and not at all on Sundays.

Indeed, the distances may be quite large in the bigger cities ... in my home town (as a child) we could go pretty much wherever we wanted with a ten, maximum fifteen minutes drive, driving from one end of Oslo to the other may take like half an hour on a Sunday (depending on how one chooses to define "Oslo"), much more during the traffic peaks. My wife is from St.Petersburg, distances are like crazy over there. But still ... how often does one really need to go from one end to the other? Indeed, quite many people live in one end of the city and works at the other - but far from everyone, quite many are working locally. Driving from one end to the other is quite comparable to driving from one small town to another. Daily shopping ... out of milk, even from our home here in Oslo my wife often ends up driving to the shop to solve that issue, in St.Petersburg, almost no matter where one lives, it will be quicker to go by feet than to take the car for buying common food products.