"The automobile's need for space literally destroys urban areas! " (p. 55).
The author's main point in this short book
is simple and eloquent: we are being bullied into cars.
Andy Singer has long been known for his cartoons that
satirize automobile-centric culture.
In this book, Singer describes some of the thinking behind his cartoons:
political and economic policy has been set up so that people who
do not have a car
are punished mercilessly (often to the point
of death) and that those who have and use cars
are coddled, subsidized, and treated
with a different set of laws than the rest of us.
This is not the result of some mysterious conspiracy, but
an out-in-the open collaboration of
the oil, road-building,
automobile, real-estate, and related industries who have
steadily merged interests to make profits from car culture.
Singer's accomplishment is to vividly and clearly make the case of
the title "why we drive" using his cartoons and footnoted facts and
Dividing cities into two sections: driving and non-driving (p. 8). Just as the ill health effects of smoking led to laws to protect non-smokers, so too might laws that combat
pedestrian injuries, death, and illness due to automobiles might be passed.
Singer cites Ivan Illich's analysis in Energy and equity (1974), in which given to the number of hours spent on car maintenance and earning
the money to pay for it, an American might spend 1,600 hours
to go 7,500 miles -- a return of about five miles per hour!
In other words, a typical driver could go the same distance easily
by bike if he used all the time he or she spent supporting
the car to instead riding a bike! (p. 15).
Twenty to forty percent of a car's pollution comes from its manufacture
and disposal (p. 53). So-called "green" cars simply shift when and where
the pollution happens.
Thirty to fifty percent of American land is given over to accommodate
cars through roads, access roads, parking lots, etc. (p. 55).
There are many costs cars incur that represent lost tax revenue and increased
costs for healthcare--an enormous subsidy which is often not
addressed (p. 67).
Walking or bicycling is a more efficient
way to move people--more people can be moving in a given space
than by cars (p. 85).
Transit agencies build roads in a sort of perpetual-motion machine
to capture funds and expand their own power. Because public transit is
ignored, it gains these agencies no power, and is thus underfunded
The result of Singer's efforts
is a book that I think every high-school student should read and
study, and that would make a great gift for your local politician,
decision-maker, planner, member of the press, or transportation official.