Bono, Get a Grip — Stop Fetishizing Cars

We heard from a few people over the holiday break who were disgusted by the Jan. 2 New York Times op-ed from U2 front man — and celebrity environmentalist — Bono. In it, the pop star called for the "return of the automobile as a sexual object."

In a blog post today, Streetsblog Network member RIDE Solutions wrote a refutation of Bono’s little fantasy — and nailed the argument:

302118834_8faa6ae251.jpgThis picture wouldn’t turn us on even if all the cars were electric Aston Martins. (Photo: sbisson via Flickr)

Bono’s creepy fetishization of the automobile is part of the core
psychological problem that has led to the country’s transportation,
energy, and urban design mess. Despite the problems we’re currently
suffering from too many people being in love with their automobiles —
air pollution, suburban sprawl, skyrocketing gas prices  and the
outsourcing of our energy development to hostile foreign powers — Bono
suggests that, in the coming decade, we need to love our cars more, we need to make them prettier, we need to want to spend more time in them and invest more
money in them…. 

Even qualifying, as he does, that "the
greener, the cleaner, the meaner on fossil fuels," the more he’s
aroused, he misses the point that gas mileage is only one small
component of a vehicle’s energy and environmental impact. Even a fleet
of zero-emission electric Aston Martins need someplace to park and
roads to drive on. They still get into car accidents, and require
expensive maintenance and production.…

Bono would have been better off, if he insists on his bizarre
fetishization, to emphasize beautiful and “sexy” urban spaces.  If the
idea is to sexualize something so that people want to spend more time
with it, why not emphasize our cities and downtowns? Why not take the
artists and designers he wants to work with automakers and instead put
them on city planning commissions and in city engineering departments? In essence, concentrate design and beauty on where and how we live, not
on the tools we use to go to the grocery store.

Excellent points. If "sexy" is linked to "speed" — which it clearly is, in Bono’s Aston Martin–loving formulation — the last thing we need is more automotive sexiness, even if it is electrically powered.

In case we needed a reminder of how deadly even moderate increases in speed can be, New Haven Safe Streets yesterday posted about an important new study from the British Journal of Medicine that demonstrates yet again how 20 mph speed zones can dramatically reduce casualties and collisions — by around 40 percent — with the number of children killed or injured reduced by 50 percent.

Requiring cars to drive more slowly so that fewer kids die? That’s the kind of idea that gets us excited.

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