People Are Fundamentally Social, Except When We’re Inside a Car

What makes for a good environment inside a car and outside a car couldn't be more different, says Bill Lindeke at Twin City Sidewalks.
When you’re walking, it’s great to be around other people on their feet, but when you’re driving, it’s awful to be around other people in cars, says Bill Lindeke at Twin City Sidewalks.

Bill Lindeke at Twin City Sidewalks was on a high from this weekend, when he attended a pretty spectacular outdoor festival in his hometown of St. Paul. The streets were filled with people and activity. It got him thinking, as fun as it was, it would have been a miserable place to be if you were in a car trying to get somewhere.

He says the things that make pedestrians happy and drivers happy couldn’t be more fundamentally opposite:

The experience led me to dwell on the fundamental difference between walkable cities and a car-based society. Try as we might to reconcile the various “modes” of urban movement, the difference between driving a car and doing just about anything else all comes down to density. Put simply, in a car, more is bad; outside of a car, more is good.

It’s relatively simple to understand. Just look at any car commercial, showing people driving their shining new SUV through a city street. The one common denominator is that in almost every case, the streets are practically empty. The ideal state for driving a car is to be completely alone, to have the city all to yourself.

Now think about any commercial that shows people walking around a city. Typically, you’ll see streets full of other people, maybe dogs, shops, street vendors. The ideal city on foot is full of other people.

You just can’t get around that fundamental opposition. Cars transform us all into misanthropes.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Systemic Failure reports that city leaders in Hamilton, Ontario, voted to remove a dedicated bus lane. Strong Towns shares a case that illustrates how setting limits on infrastructure spending can be a good thing. And Mobilizing the Region says a new report rightly zeros in on New Jersey’s road funding troubles, but identifies the wrong solution.

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