As I admitted in the last blog, the case I sketched out for the car being a vehicle of social castration was oversimplified. It is more complex than that. I have no doubt the increased use of the car has and continues to contribute to the breakdown of social interaction and community spirit but it is by no means the only causative factor.
But perhaps the main point which needs to be made is that the adverse effects of riding around in a car all the time cannot be reversed by simply encouraging walking and the use of public transport.
Over the last 50 years the planning system has delivered an urban infrastructure which is completely dependent on the car. Low density housing, greenfield industrial estates and out-of-town retail parks have created a long term inflexible framework for significantly changed social and employment habits. Food and household shopping is geared to one big weekly trip, and best-value goods are increasingly multi-pack. Furniture and other consumer durables are taken home in the car in flat packs. Job insecurity and rapid turnover of employment means people travel further for work and the location of the house not the job is now regarded as ‘fixed’. And modern, ‘sophisticated’ society is so time-pressured people don’t have time to walk or take the bus. What is perhaps even worse is that people actually prefer to isolate themselves in their car so they don’t have to interact with other people. One traffic engineer I know said he wouldn’t travel on the bus because you didn’t know who might come and sit next to you, and they might not have good personal hygiene. But that leads on to a whole different area of thought, opens a whole new can of worms, including 4×4 Syndrome. So I’ll finish there.
The point is that use of the car and the adverse effects that has had will only be reversed over a long time or via a major socio-economic lurch of seismic proportions. Me? I will continue to leave the car at home and travel on foot or by public transport as much as I can. But then I have both the time and the inclination to do so.
And since I have been back up North the weather has been fabulous for walking to places. Cloudless blue sky in South Manchester ever since I got here. Covered about 25 kilometres in 2 days so far. Walking around with the camera has been a pleasure.