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Expensive Cars Never Stop At Crossings

2 September 2010 No Comment

The other day I was crossing the street on a pedestrian  crossing. I tend to be quite bold and don’t have the patience to wait politely until the traffic comes to a complete standstill. I mean pedestrian crossings are named that way for a purpose, yes?

I happened to be pushing a baby in a buggy and accompanied by Mona (proud mother of baby, tolerant wife of me).

I could be dramatic and say I was almost hit by the large BMW but integrity and a certain standard of honesty prevents me making such exaggerated claims. The truth is my foot was definitely on the crossing and clearly I wanted to cross the street. The BMW in question drove straight across in front of me and, had I not stopped, there might have been a nasty accident.

Mona turned to me and said,

“Expensive cars never stop at crossings.”

As a huge generalisation it probably doesn’t warrant too much investigation and it would be really pedantic to say it’s not the cars but the drivers that never stop.

Despite that, her comment did get me thinking about how much we’ve given over the world to the all powerful motorcar.

Stopping at Crossings

Haven’t we got this back to front?

I reached a point where I regard a driver who decides to stop to allow me across the street as doing me a favour. Many times I wave a hand of thanks to the driver who goes out of his/her way to slow down and let me pass. Walk down any busy street and you’ll see people patiently (or not) waiting for the traffic to stop so they can pass. Usually those on the street well outnumber those driving cars, particularly as most motors seem to only have one person sitting in them.

This is especially true in towns and cities – places having the purpose for people to live, work and relax.

Yet it’s the rare city where the pedestrian rules as we’ve given over the places we live to the automobile.

If we were to start over again I would strongly push for an approach whereby it is the driver who waits and it is the driver who waves a thankful hand to those of us on the street for allowing them to pass by.

Or better still, eliminate cars from towns and cities completely. These are places for PEOPLE not for cars!

The only places where this currently happens are a few historical cities and shopping streets. I suspect for the former this is more to preserve the old buildings and for the latter to make it harder for the shoppers to escape.

Fuelling the Monster – Part 1

No-one really knows how many motor vehicles are cruising the streets of the planet today:

Around the world, there were about 806 million cars and light trucks on the road in 2007; they burn over 1 billion m³ (260 billion US gallons) of petrol/gasoline and diesel fuel yearly..  (Source: The always reliable (!) Wikipedia)

Is it only expensive cars that don’t stop at crossings?

Whether they stop at crossings or not is largely a matter of social culture. In Romania they rarely stop unless you are spread-eagled on the tarmac in front of them. In other countries you only have to look at the crossing and they stop.

What is true, though, is ALL cars are expensive.

The purchase or lease cost is just the small tip of the iceberg (or oil field!). Add to that maintenance, fuel and insurance.

And the continual depletion of our fossil fuel reserves.

And all the resources used in vehicle manufacture and maintenance.

And road building.

And don’t get me started on the cost of air and noise pollution, traffic accidents or the accidents resulting in massive damage to the oceans (BP, anyone?).

Fuelling The Monster – Part 2

Someone has got us convinced we need at least one car each, or ideally, more than one car. Call me crazy but, personally I suspect the oil companies and car manufacturers.

Whoever it is, they’ve somehow got me to believe the car I drive says something about who I am as a human being. Am I successful enough to drive a big, flashy car? And a family car to use when no-one is watching?

It’s quite amazing how much my ego can be fuelled by driving.

One car I had some years ago was a very sexy, sleek white monster that went very fast indeed. And I felt GREAT driving it. Honestly, though it didn’t change me as a human being – only when I was behind the wheel when I myself became a very sexy, sleek white monster that went very fast indeed. And, really .. how on Earth can a car be SEXY???

These days I don’t own a car and my ego is no longer fuelled. Except when I borrow one from time and the boy racer comes out to play. Unless it’s my Mum’s car I’m borrowing!

Losing The Use Of My Legs

I enjoy driving.

It also makes some aspects of day to day life much easier. After all it’s pretty hard to do some things these days without access to a car. Not impossible but usually very inconvenient.

Perhaps those same people who fuel my ego with images of sleek, white monsters are also in collusion with those who plan our living spaces. Some living spaces are worse than others in this respect.

My parents visit the US from time to time and one place they stayed was a residential area just over the other side of the street from a supermarket. They naively thought they could just walk across the road to the other side but found there was no physical way of doing so. They had to drive there despite being only 100 metres away.

It’s so easy to get about in the car it becomes a habit. The price we pay is we lose the use of our legs. Is it coincidence the countries with high density of motor vehicles are also those with high densities of overweight people. I know it’s not a simple as that, but when I see people jump in the car to drive a kilometre down the street I wonder how long it will be before their legs drop off through inactivity.

They Are Here To Stay

Of course they are wonderful inventions and they are here to stay. I’m not suggesting any different.

What I would like is moderation and awareness.

Consider these questions every time you choose to drive in favour of other alternatives:

  • is driving the only way, or are there alternatives? (walk, bus, train, ask for a lift?)
  • what’s the total cost of this drive in financial terms – to you? (fuel, maintenance, depreciation) and to the world (or your share of all the hidden costs)?
  • remember that pedestrians are not a nuisance but people, just like you, who chose to use their legs instead of their wheels
  • is your choice of car really your choice? or is your choice influenced by the mass media? (be brutally honest with yourself!)

Drive safely!

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