“War on Cars”

We’re on two wheels, baby! This is a post I can’t and won’t entirely defend because it quickly gets pretty general.

So last week the alternative weekly (and “Seattle’s Only Newspaper”) The Stranger observed that in the absence of there being any sort of actual “War on Cars”, some drivers seem to be sure one exists and say nasty shit about bikers and also a bunch of bikers are killed by cars. I have zero sympathy for the “war on cars” victimhood of the privileged that always has the whiff of the Tea Party about it, and up to there I’m with The Stranger. However, the Stranger seems to have a knack for doing political agitprop in a really dumb fashion, as best showcased by the picture they printed of Sarah Palin with a huge target on her head in a piece decrying escalating political rhetoric, or making fun of Michele Bachmann’s sexuality, and this is one of those times. Their basic posture is that, since some people say there’s a War on Cars anyway, you might as well have one. As a person who rides a bike and doesn’t want to die, I am obviously unhappy about this proposal.

The reason there isn’t a war on cars is because the vast majority of people don’t want a war on cars. The reason a bunch of pathetic whiners talk about there being a war on cars is to garner sympathy because people don’t actually support a war on cars and so are more likely to listen to their stupid-ass whining if they couch it in “war on cars” language than if they simply spout off about how those who bike are “swimming with the sharks,” roads “being built” for cars as if that was how nature intended it, and cyclists dying being “their own fault”. So they say “War on Cars”. As bikers we should be doing everything to show that this talking point is ridiculous, not help propagate it.

A war on cars can’t be won, but by creating an adversarial relationship between drivers and bikers, it can be lost. There are a lot more drivers than bikers. And to start a battle that can’t be won just ’cause you’re righteously pissed off is wrongheaded to the extreme.

Moreover, the righteousness is misplaced. Bikers dying is a tragedy. Drivers killing bikers is abhorrent. But biking and driving themselves aren’t about morals. I think that moralizing should have almost no place in policy. Maybe you disagree. For biking and driving, though, it’s not controversial. Neither biking nor driving are inherently positive or negative actions. It’s just that driving is currently priced wrong – leading to crappy traffic, road rage, killed bikers, smog, etc… Maybe this makes me sound like some kind of economics dweeb, or worse, libertarian, but better economics dweeb than priest. The reason people don’t want pro-bike policies is because they connect it with someone admonishing them they shouldn’t be driving or that saying that driving is immoral. They see it as a moral judgment against them. Well, get rid of that shit. The people who are driving hummers aren’t commiting a sin. They’re just getting a deal that is too good to be true – and they shouldn’t be. They should be paying more for driving that hummer – but they’re not any worse people for doing it cheaply any more than I am a bad person for signing up for Groupon or something.

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One Response to “War on Cars”

  1. Pingback: For the bicycle-curious | Rated Zed

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