As an urban planning student and environmentalist, I often find myself thinking about cars — why we have them, why we subsidize them, what makes us give them up in favor of other modes of transportation.
Most recently, it was my mother who reminded me just how deep our car culture runs.
About two years ago, my brother got in an accident on the New Jersey turnpike and totaled his car (no injuries, luckily). Knowing that he was about to start student teaching in Delaware and wouldn’t be able to get around easily without a car, my mom helped him out in buying a new one. Always wanting to be fair, she told me she’d give me the same amount towards replacing my car, which she thought was way overdue for an upgrade. Granted, I had been driving the same ‘98 Ford Contour since I was 16. It’s been to Florida and back, and driven many miles in between. The gas gauge, speedometer, and odometer rarely work. The trunk leaks. It had definitely seen better days.
But here’s the thing. Over a year ago I moved to Brooklyn, NY. I don’t need a car, and I really don’t want one. In fact, I don’t ever really see myself needing my own car again. Yet despite my protesting, my mom kept that old Ford Contour parked in her driveway for month after month, just in case I came to my senses and decided that life without a car was too much to bear. After telling her for the bazillionth time that walking, biking, and public transit were all I needed, she finally gave the car away to a mechanic down the block.
So remember that extra money she set aside for me for a new car? Well, it’s just sitting in an account somewhere. I could use it tomorrow if I were to change my mind and decide to buy a car. My mom just can’t let go of the idea that in order to have a perfectly fulfilled life, I need 4 wheels under me. Meanwhile, there are a ton of other things I could use a little extra monetary help with (ahem, NYU tuition). It’s one thing to decide you’re the type of person who can live a carfee life, but it takes a bit more discipline to have money for a new car staring you in the face and still declining. (Don’t worry - I’m holding strong!) I’ve just been caught off-guard by how insistent my mom has been, as she’s generally not so insistent about anything. It’s a reminder that it really is still a tough battle to convince folks that as a society, we are all too reliant on cars when there are so many other options available.
Excuse the hiatus. Life has been busy indeed.
I’m hoping that I’ve given myself enough of an adjustment period and will now be able to update this more regularly.
Being that research is my life now, I thought it’d be appropriate to share a quote I recently came across that I quite like:
“All advances in scientific understanding, at every level, begin with a speculative adventure, an imaginative preconception of what might be true - a preconception which always, and necessarily, goes a little way (sometimes a long way) beyond anything which we have logical or factual authority to believe in. It is the invention of a possible world, or of a tiny fraction of that world. The conjecture is then exposed to criticism to find out whether or not that imagined world is anything like the real one. Scientific reasoning is therefore at all levels an interaction between two episodes of thought - a dialogue between two voices, the one imaginative and the other critical; a dialogue, if you like, between the possible and the actual, between proposal and disposal, conjecture and criticism, between what might be true and what is in fact the case.”
On the heels of a recently released report in Injury Prevention Journal, the Department of Public Safety at NYU just sent out a Community Safety Alert about the dangers of walking while wearing headphones or earbuds. In fact, this report has been widely circulated by local and national media all week. In NYU’s statement, they cited the fact that “accidents involving people hit by vehicles while wearing earbuds have tripled since 2004.”
Now that does sound pretty alarming, doesn’t it?
Well, maybe it will sound less alarming when you consider that these 116 incidents only make up about 0.3% of all pedestrian fatalities during that time period.
Transportation for America does a great job of illuminating one of the major reasons why pedestrians continue to fall victim to the streets (hint: it has to do with the car-centric design of our towns and cities).
It’s always worthwhile to be aware of your surroundings, and I personally try not to walk or bike with earbuds in, but the coverage of this report has just been ridiculous and a distraction from the real problem: The prevalence of unsafe walking conditions throughout our country.