The vanishing race: pedestrian

Friday, September 14, 2012

In our modern world, we take for granted that we can slip behind the wheel of an automobile and reach our destination with a minimum of exertion and time. The evolution of the impact of cars on our lives goes much deeper. Here is some “food for thought” on cars and how society and our lives are radicalized by them.

Living in Suburbia

Before cars, if you worked in a city, it was necessary to live in or relatively close to where you worked. In the era of horses and railroads as the only forms of transportation, it was almost impossible to live more than walking distance to a city job. There were no “commuter trains”. When the automobile was invented, it became possible to live further from a job, and thus suburbia was born!

Dating & Romance

Prior to the invention of the automobile, courtship was easily monitored by the young couple’s family. Once young people were able to drive cars, they were able to zoom off and independently date without the watchful eyes of parents. As a tongue in cheek aside, we wonder how many people were conceived in cars as well!

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a toxic emission that is produced by vehicles. Climate change and human health are both at risk when carbon monoxide levels are uncontrolled. When carbon monoxide levels are high, it inhibits the body’s ability to transmit oxygen. According to the EPA, 60% of carbon monoxide in the environment in the United States is caused by road vehicles.

Watch Your Step

The pedestrian has to be careful in a society dominated by automobiles for safety reasons. According to WorldBank.org,  approximately 720,000 people killed each year in traffic accidents in the world are pedestrians.

Road Trip!

The invention of the automobile has expanded the horizons of private travel. Previously, group travel was necessary using a train or a bus. The automobile makes a trip a private and flexible travel option.

Personal Freedom

People can now see their families and friends that live further away, as opposed to the days before the invention of the car, when societal groups had to live close together to have a relationship.

Jobs

The car has created millions of jobs every year. Highway workers, toll road collectors, roadside businesses, and transport drivers are just a few of the jobs that are continually being created.

The Larger Human

Since a large majority of us have been dependent on the automobile, our bodies have grown larger because we are more sedate. We go shopping, visiting, vacationing and ferry the children around in our cars. As a result, we have gained weight. According to the Washington Post, a study of 11,000 people who lived in neighborhoods where they needed a car to get around weighed significantly more than those who lived nearby their jobs and shopping.

More Money

Having a car means having the income to support one. Lower income people have a larger struggle to be car owners. The cost of the car plus fuel, vehicle insurance, and maintenance makes car ownership a more expensive proposition.

An American Icon

Henry Ford and Ransom Olds pioneered the mass production of the automobile and Americans fell in love with their cars. From classic cars, to race cars, to the family wagon, drivers have had a romance with their autos since that time. We identify with our cars and our cars are a source of pride.

Conclusion

Autos have affected all of our lives greatly for more than a century. As more pedestrians become drivers, our world will continue to evolve around our cars.

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