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cars and culture wars

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Cars seem to be at the forefront of America’s culture war. Consider the reaction to his Carlton Reid essay written for the website Works in Progress. They argue that ubiquitous driving does not necessarily create happy and healthy communities. “The car may seem to have the upper hand in many towns and cities today, but that is because choices have been made that allow such dominance,” Reed said. “Choices can be made over. Minds can be changed.” The quote generated The worldview it represents isenforce serfdom in America” and to people “some blue cesspool podsAny modification to our existing land-use and street-planning regimes, the implied mindset, would make the American way of life impossible.

The other side of this cultural coin is the recent new york times A column on the spiritual benefits of family road trips and drives. Columnist Ross Douthat argued that driving can instill “adult mastery and knowledge” and deliver “a non-virtual experience of America beyond class, tribe and bubble.” While many urbanist advocates see the article as an attack on liberal values ​​as well as livable cities. I interpreted that there is. For example, one Minnesota commentator described the columnist’s vacation as “the practice of burning buckets of fossil fuels and torturing children with boredom.” It’s not a civil rights monument, it’s a suburban water park next to a Canadian-developed megamall.”

Internet backlash is internet backlash, but these particular cycles of outrage provide a window into how the debate of urban space is politically coded in the United States. challenges the status quo are often perceived as leftist. Progressive urbanists, on the other hand, sometimes take a hostile stance toward rural and suburban America, demonizing the car-centric lifestyle. Car and public space usage issues exacerbate geographic, personal and political divisions. This is an unfortunate dynamic that locks out alternative perspectives.

How should market-oriented advocates for efficient and safe urban living navigate this terrain? (advocates for new housing construction on the right side of the political spectrum) make up the smallest subset of housing advocates and typically live in San Francisco and New York. This statement applies more generally to conservative urbanists. The perception that activists in these coastal progressive cities are parachuting into America’s heartland risks polarizing conservatives into different planning models.

In fact, the insights in Reed’s skeptical essay on cars apply just as much to American suburbs and small towns as they do to Reed’s native Newcastle and Manhattan. Driving brings results. Municipalities in America usually allocate too many prime lots for parking lots. Building highways isn’t always the healthiest thing for a neighborhood. However, translation of these proposals into appropriate policies outside of the most densely populated metropolitan areas requires coordination. Appeals to core commitments of family, neighborhood, and community are more likely to resonate with conservatives than rants about McMansions, climate change, or heavy trucks.

From Harlem to Plano, Texas, people want safe public spaces for their children to play, neighbors to connect and friendships to flourish. You don’t need a “fight with cars” to create them. Advocates of livable spaces too often lean into hardcore leftism that calls for “direct action.” The British trend is to deflate the tires in the dark of night to ‘disarm’ cars, and one vandal group in the UK said in July that in two weeks he had killed more than 1,000 vehicles. claims to have “disarmed” the Broader urbanism would treat public space as a public good that helps families and communities thrive rather than indulge in progressive intolerance.

As Americans prepare for the next Supreme Court ruling, House committee hearing, or executive order, something as innocuous as recommending traffic congestion relief or congestion pricing is more likely to happen. It risks being interpreted as part of a broader campaign. to convince you that it’s not a trojan horse for a fancy project. Fortunately, there is evidence that local governments are more open to concrete agreements than his latest Fox News or his MSNBC segment suggests. Families tend to value safe places to ride, walk and gather, regardless of which political team they are rooting for.

Photo by H. Armstrong Roberts/Classic Stock/Getty Images