As a non-car guy, I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking, talking and writing about cars. I’m bored to death with it, frankly. Perhaps you too are bored with my constant car chatter.
And here I go again writing about cars.
The most recent cause for my car thoughts comes from an article written earlier this week by David Akin. In it he cited a paper given by Zach Taylor, a Ph.D. candidate, at the Canadian Political Science Association Conference last month that suggested car ownership and use may have been a key factor for those who cast their ballots for Rob Ford in last October’s municipal election. “The propensity to commute by automobile is a strong predictor of Ford support,” writes Mr. Taylor, “while property-oriented variables (the home ownership rate and percentage of housing in detached form) are shown to have a negligible influence on candidate support.”
Ah yes, the War on Cars. Great bumper sticker sloganeering that, not coincidentally, fits perfectly on the back of cars that Ford voters drive. Simple, very effective three word politics.
I will stop myself on theorizing about what I believe to be sociopathy in people’s attachment to their automobiles since it would be a gross generalization. Many folks, having either bought into the lure of a nice house in the suburbs or simply living where they can afford to live, depend on their cars. To get to work and home again, shop, take the kids to school or extracurricular activities, to simply get to where they need to go.
Even if they wanted to rid themselves of their auto reliance, many people couldn’t at this point. There’s no other reliable way to move around their parts of the city in a timely fashion. Ironically, by voting for their auto-centric way of life, they helped elect a mayor who seems determined to make it even less likely they could live car-free if they wanted with his orchestrated attack on Transit City.
No, I think the problem is much more fundamental than that. A continued attachment to cars as our primary mode of transport is a refusal to accept that the world has changed. Automobiles are the kings of the 20th-century. We designed our cities around them. They represented freedom and status. Dodge. Grab Life by the Horns. Buick: Dream Up. SAAB:Welcome to the State of Independence. Jaguar: Don’t dream it. Drive it! Honda: The Power of Dreams. Subaru. Think. Feel. Drive. Ford: Built for life in Canada.
Inundated like that, how could you not want a car? How could you not need a car?
Problem is, it’s 2011, a decade plus into the the 21st-century. The true cost of our car culture has fully manifested itself in our blighted streetscapes, loss of productive time stuck in traffic, environmental degradation and a dependence on dwindling energy resources. For many, driving is the worst way to get from point A to point B anymore.
So we split into two camps: those wanting to make driving easier and those wanting to reduce the primacy of cars in our transport system. Although there would be significant overlap between these seemingly opposing views, this is where the battle lines are drawn. Don’t touch my car versus Get out of your car. Status quo versus embracing the future.
The War on Cars should actually be referred to as the War on Modernity. Having held sway for, let’s call it 60 or 70 years, car ownership is the entrenched interest, a fact of life that was simply a given, the norm, but is now under siege. A perceived assault on the ability to drive anywhere anytime is seen as an assault on a way of life. First, they came for my car, and I said nothing. Then they came for my parking pad. You will have to pry my cold, dead hands from the steering wheel.So it’s not really about cars. It’s about change. Change will always be resisted until it becomes inevitable but the transition seldom is smooth or without – ahem, ahem – the occasional bump in the road. History, though, can only be delayed not indefinitely deferred. We, us car unenthusiasts and embracers of the future, are in a temporary holding pattern, waiting for the last dying gasp of an era.
— autodidactically submitted by Urban Sophisticat
fuckin rights. I have friends without cars and they are not loosers, as the saying goes. They is whiners.
[spell-check sez those are the words, but what I meant was Losers and Winners].
Please do not ramble on about these points, because I am inebriated with your sad comments [spellcheck: Rumble, Inebriated].
Jerry, you are very close to the truth with these carefully stated points. However it needs to be said that inebriated is not the same as inundated, which is what I think you meant.
I thought Doug & Nick Kouvalis won it for Rob. I suspect Ford Nation will be siting in their cars a few years from now in traffic OR construction. Asking themselves is the War on the Car over?!
In other news like the front of the Star. The chief thinks they did well because the leaders were protected and no was killed. (OK)
How about violating citizens charter rights, not protecting property on Queen and Yonge… Lastly leaving their vehicles unattended so that when they burn it obscurred the message of the protesters that they don’t want the leaders and banksters to cut back on services just to hand the money to corporations…
G20 Redux: A Fundamental Freedoms Festival Join Canadian Civil Liberties Assoc and other groups to mark the one-year anniversary of the G20 events and fight for a public inquiry and full accountability.
Where: , Queen’s Park, Toronto,
When: SATURDAY 2-5 pm
It amazes me that so-called conservatives, people who like to lecture us about “living within our means” and the need for austerity, will turn into a shrieking mob of socialists demanding free roads, free parking and cheap gas whenever the laws of physics show the impossibility of cramming more single-occupancy vehicles onto our finite roadspace. What a bunch of whiny Takers!
I actually had hopes for Minnan-Wong (and Parker, for that matter). My error was that I assumed their conservatism was real, of the Burkean variety, and not a load of self-indulgent performance art.
I was talking to dear ole dad about this today. His observation – even Mel Lastman wasn’t this bad a mayor!
That’s because Rob is a penny pincher who will cut services! Melvin is a salesman & sold the idea of this City. I see he is still selling furniture… I miss Miller who will be taking off for NYC.
P.S. I heard it’s fun to stay at the YMCA
I recommend reading the book titled “fighting traffic: dawn of the motor age in the american city”
The author of the paper cited by Akin here: What I actually said in the paper is that while there is a strong relationship between auto use and the intensity of the Ford vote, this is probably driven by underlying factors, not least an urban form that is not conducive to walking, cycling, or frequent transit service. Hence the finding that an *even stronger* predictor of the Ford vote is living in the former Metro suburbs, which suggests the salience of lifestyle to shaping political culture and, perhaps, an enduring hangover from amalgamation. — Zack Taylor
Dearest Zack; I was thinking about the Federal Election and that you might try the same thing… Rob Ford had robo calls on the Sunday before EDay; which likely made a difference in Etobicoke, North York/Scarborough because they already had the Pro Israel strategy for the ridings near Bathurst Street.
Would people have voted for Miller in ’03 because of Car Ownership.?! OR was it the Island Airport Expansion that separated Miller from Hall & Tory.
P.S. when buying a car boycott Ford…
I loved your article. I hate cars and I hate Rob Ford and his homophobia. It was the idiots in the outer suburbs who elected him. No way he would have been elected to an unamalgamated city. Democracy sucks. I no longer vote.
Calling people who live in the outer suburbs idiots is part of the reason Ford won.