In Search of the “War on Motorists”



In Search of the “War on Motorists”

How many times have you attended a public meeting to discuss changing road usage policy or read about the current “war on motorists”?  While perhaps not stated with quite these exact words, I have had many conversations where the under currents definitely revolved around images one draws up when they think of current trends and advocacy efforts to share the public spaces better.

I think George Monbiot over at the Guardian UK blog, does a great job summarizing this war when he stated:

What I see is that driving has become cheaper over the past three decades, while other forms of transport have become more expensive. That the space dedicated to cars – both on the roads and for parking – has expanded, often at the expense of other kinds of public space. There is precious little enforcement of either the speed limit or of other rules – such as parking on the pavement in residential areas. When someone is killed or injured as a result of careless driving, the penalties are tiny, if there is any punishment at all. As a result, motorists are able to take space – and even life – away from people pursuing other activities.

Are we being unfair to motoring counterparts?  After all, the personal automobile has become the ubiquitous form of transportation for most Americans.  My personal take is that this auto centric transportation policy is not in the best interest of our country over the long term and that, as painful as it is for us as Americans, we need to start thinking outside our molded box towards how we can build the next generation transportation infrastructure, which focuses on how best to move people rather than cars.

So what’s your take, is there really a “war on motorists” being waged?


  • Jan 5, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    Pertinent to this discussion, the over on posted an entry discussing the cyclists "plot to take away their vehicles". In particular they point out that

    there’s one word in particular reformers should avoid, says Jarrett Walker at Network blog Human Transit, so as not to stoke irrational fears. That word, once regrettably employed by U.S. Transpo Secretary Ray LaHood, is “coerce.” Translated literally, to coerce is to force one to do something against his or her will with the threat of violence or intimidation — a far cry from the measures reformers recommend to give people alternatives to driving.

    I don't think I would ever use the word "coerce" to describe my goals to advocate for more people to use a bicycle for transportation, but it is definitely worth remember that verbiage is extremely important as we discuss and advocate for cyclists.

  • Jan 6, 2011 at 6:17 am

    LMAO… The WAR is waged by motorists against everyone else. And I don't just mean the ignorant, scofflaws and uninformed who should never have qualified to receive licenses in the first place. The pursuit of petroleum is behind all class war, economic injustice, military expense, racial genocide and most crime. Until "advocates" who pretend to make cycling "more pleasant" realize they've got an entrenched hungry tyrannosaur by the tail, they'll never make any meaningful contribution.

  • MattM
    Jan 6, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    A good piece covering the Seattle history of the phrase "War on Cars" (and by extension, North American usage) just came out at Grist by Eric De Place.

    I think he hits the nail on the head in the last paragraph:

    There’s something almost laughably overheated about the “war on cars” rhetoric. It’s almost as if the purveyors of the phrase have either lost their cool entirely, or else they’re trying desperately to avoid a level-headed discussion of transportation policy.

    I did an informal poll last night of my girlfriend who drives exclusively, and is of course subject to my frequent bike related evangelizing, and she offered that to her mind there was no war underway against motorists.

  • Critical Mass RI - V
    Jan 11, 2011 at 5:17 am

    Cars get enough space. I'm pretty sure 2 lanes on a street
    is fine for them, sometimes even 4 lanes. bicycles get the

  • MattyCiii
    Jan 13, 2011 at 8:19 am

    If there were open war, there would be pressure on cops to enforce traffic laws. Aligning the cost of gasoline at the pump to its true cost (about $10/gallon) would be happening right now. An automobile drivers license would be treated as a serious responsibility, like a license to practice medicine, or qualification to pilot a commercial airplane. Old folks would be re-tested, to ensure mental/physical infirmities are exposed…

    If it were an insurgent war, there would be a whole lot of slashed tires and broken windshields, as a small minority of extremists wage a sabotage campaign against cars belonging to bad drivers, or randomly.

    Neither is even remotely hinted at in our culture today. I see no war.

  • Labann
    Jan 13, 2011 at 10:18 am

    Evidence of the class war consists of minority teens who twist radio arials into pretzels, but little else. Gangs assault bicyclists because they can easily get away with it. Both happened to me. If anything, criminals fear more what police would do to them if they steel or vandalize cars. There's even a reality TV show "Bait Car". Recently, a RI woman ran over a teen on foot, but wasn't charged because teen had been engaged in a crowd throwing wood on the road, which was deemed far more heinous than vehicular assault.

    Recently took a vehicle in for another 2-year inspection. After only 5,000 miles, garage wanted to charge me $1,500 in unnecessary repairs. Paid for failed inspection only. Took it where they aren't so devious and greedy and got sticker, having only had to pay fee again. Got me thinking. With such high costs of motoring and 32% in actual unemployment, I bet there are thousands of vehicles in poor repair still being driven. Bad bicycling infrastructure and terrible vehicle maintenance combine in a recipe for fatal catastrophe.

  • MattyCiii
    Jan 13, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    Follow up to Lebann's comments… I've noticed a big increase in the number of failed headlights, taillights and brake lights. Why is that? Unemployment… People holding on to cars longer. Lax enforcement… Sure. Apathy? Yep.

    How many of these cars also have brake problems… I hope we never find out.