Against car culture, by Ernest Folch

It’s been a long time since the car stopped being a simple means of transport to become a whole culture. When it is only an instrument it is practical and can help to live better: for elderly and needy people, services, transporters, workers and obviously any public transport. But its use has spread to the ridiculous, with SUV of several tons to move a single person within the city, and it has been transformed into a symbol of individualism, economic progress and even social power, fueled by advertising. True, the automobile has behind a fabulous industry that in Spain alone it creates and maintains hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs and it represents around 10% of GDP. With this royal alibi, there is always a way to protect and justify it. Faced with growing media pressure and progressive environmental awareness, the car industry has found its new discourse, synthesized very well by Salvador Alemany (Abertis): “The enemy is pollution, not the car.” In other words, it is about saving time while the traditional car, with non-electric motors, still represents almost 7 out of every 10 that are sold. What is intended is to give a sweetened image of the car and ignore its sinister side, It is rarely talked about: it is estimated that in the world a whopping 3,700 people die every day from traffic accidents (1,350,000 a year), plus their corresponding injuries with terrible consequences for life.

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While the tobacco companies have finally been forced to put in their packages’Smoking kills, there is not a single government in the world that has been able to impose on its car manufacturers something similar, or at least the requirement that they leave the factory with speed limiters that prevent breaking the law: the paradox is that it is not legal to go faster than 120 km / h but it is legal to sell cars that exceed 250 km / h. Nor do we know, for example, an elementary ranking of the car models that cause the most accidents. Because the car, in addition to being a fabulous instrument of transport that has certainly contributed to the economic and social development of the planet, is at the same time a ruthless killing machine: pedestrians, cyclists and motorists die every day in one of the wildest tragedies already the most silenced time known to mankind. We resign ourselves to this monstrosity without taking action because we have assumed that it is the necessary price that you have to pay for economic progress, but also because car culture is embedded in our DNA. Thanks to her, we tolerate, for example, the infernal noise that some cretins constantly make with their accelerations, and We take for granted the aberration that Aragó street in Barcelona has five lanes in the heart of the city. It is the culture, often testosterone, of speed, noise, and of course, social status. That is why it is surprising that we are cyclically bombarded with highly calculated campaigns about the incivility of scooters or excessive bike lanes that obstruct traffic.

Today the punctual hit by a scooter to a pedestrian is much more media coverage than the daily death of dozens of people involved in car accidents. And the municipalities that dare to attack the problem, reduce lanes and give more prominence to pedestrians or bicycles are demonized and put in the spotlight. Until we get rid of it the ‘car dependency’, and its associated dangerous culture, all the Glasgow summits and all our attempts to build a better world will fail.

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