Animal versus Automobile

Mission: To promote driving less so all may live more.

The Clash Between Nature and Technology

This post could be called “Roadkill,” a word firmly established in the tradition of automobiles and pickup trucks triumphing over nature, inadvertently (one hopes). The unnecessary death of animals has a staggering incidence—those creatures being unable to litigate for themselves or their relatives.

Kudos to my friend Anton O., who frequently would pick up fresh roadkill (resulting from other drivers) and take it home for dinner. He had a keen sense of what qualified as “fresh.” Kudos to his wife, Anne, for marrying him.
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We Almost Drove Over My Real Estate Agent

Mission: To promote driving less so all may live more.

When it was over, I gasped, and said, “We almost drove over my real estate agent!”

Hannah looked at the split-rail fence that had put her Subaru to a final stop. Little damage done.

The wintry day was sunny and the roads were mostly dry. We had just turned onto Marshall Road, outside of Boulder, speed limit 25.  

As we rounded a corner, I saw a woman running on the opposite side of the road, facing traffic, as one should do. She was blond, young and… 

“It’s Sally!” I thought—my real estate agent who had helped me sell my house in Coal Creek Canyon. Suddenly that thought gave way to, “Dang it, we’re sliding toward her!”

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Hero (person) versus Villain (automobile)

Mission: To promote driving less so all may live more.

The mission of this web log is to minimize driving, not eradicate it. Many people need to drive until they can experience a change-in-life circumstance, including moving or changing jobs.

But most of our commentary about automobiles is critical because of…

  1. the legislative and commercial privilege they experience,
  2. the frequent dangerous, reckless, and selfish decisions many drivers make,
  3. the effect of the internal combustion engine on the environment,
  4. the effect of big, heavy chunks of moving metal and plastic on the natural ambience of the outdoors,
  5. the automobile culture that encourages us to neglect our bodies, our neighbors, and our communities, and
  6. the thinking engendered by being enclosed in the automobile culture where speed and dominance make right (as in whateveridoisjustified).

It is this last point, the thinking, that provides the stage where the hero and the villain meet. While this will seem irrelevant, we are familiar with one defense of handguns: guns don’t kill, people do. What the statement means on a factual level is that a gun alone in a room seldom if ever has spontaneously fired and killed someone.
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On Riding One’s Bike Up a 2,000 Foot Hill in the Heat

Mission: To promote driving less so all may live more.

This guest post (poem and drawings) comes from Louis Anderson, who, years after running the Boston Marathon in roughly 2:37, picked up bike touring. He rode a 700 mile loop from Richmond, VA to Cumberland, MD, a ride that involved ascending about 2,000 (well, 1,903) feet in ninety degree weather to Afton Mountain, Virginia. A few years later he rode his bike from the Pacific to the Atlantic (which map I include at the bottom, since his artwork merits attention). The poem below captures the mental and physical stress of the ride to Afton Mountain, as well as the inability for those who drive to appreciate self-propulsion. — Louis B.
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Modern Negative Consequences of Autos

Mission: To promote driving less so all may live more.

Accordingly, I present some free verse:

Modern negative consequences of automobiles include …
Vanishing non-renewable fuels,
So long dinos, you’re not coming back,
Nor will your remains remain;
Increase in death by vehicle;
Not knowing your own neighbor,
The one who parks inside the garage,
Let alone not knowing your community
Who mostly are insular, behind the wheel,
Maybe in a Dodge, definitely getting out of Dodge,
Spending money at stores one dare not walk to,
Stores who couldn’t care less about your Main Street;
A rise in obesity and sickly hearts;
A liberal dose of greenhouse gases,
Which sound nice and, well, green,
But turn Earth brown;
Urban sprawl and appalling parking lots;
Marginalization of pedestrians,
And if not marginalizing,
Running them down outright (happens);
A stunted railway network;
Noise pollution (what did you say?)
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Chunks of Metal Moving in the Street

Mission: To promote driving less so all may live more.

The streets I see are filled with big chunks of metal moving past, spewing gasses. That is how it appears to me, now, over a year since I sold my car. Sure, these chunks also include plastic, sometimes leather, probably rare earth metals for the electronics, and some stone for the glass. It is the metal, though, that contributes most to their mass, and that makes them seem disproportionately big and heavy when they are moving a 170 pound person up and down the road. According to Slate, the chunks weigh about 4,000 pounds, on average, with or without the driver.

These things also make significant noise if you are on the outside, like a monotonous wind or river stuck in a long-playing groove, a result of the tires bearing the weight and spinning, spinning, nearly constantly. Put these things with wheels about 20 feet apart on a highway at fifty miles an hour and you have a good sales pitch for the sale of noise-canceling headphones to the walkers, runners, and bikers (all of whose safety depends on hearing everything).

Nothing against cars in general, just the proportions. Sometimes one chunk of metal is so big and menacing that the person in the smaller chunk upgrades to an even larger chunk, hoping that if they collide the biggest chunk wins.

Nothing against cars in general, just their overuse in particular. As a luxury to take one out of town or as a tool for doing a job or transporting one’s children and dogs—irreplaceable. As the only considered means of locomotion, these chunks are an American love story, something more dangerous statistically than the American fascination with hand guns (another chunk of metal that spits). My friend worked at a 24-hour fitness center and would watch drivers in Boulder (the county with the lowest obesity rate in the state with the lowest obesity rate in the country)—he would watch drivers circle around the parking lot more than once in hopes of finding a close-up parking space in order to avoid walking too far to the treadmill.

Me? I buy modest amounts of stocks in metal chunk companies, especially when there’s a big recall or a scandal: if the stocks go up, I can afford a better bicycle, if the company goes bankrupt, I, well, that might have advantages.

Atlanta 75.85

Note: originally published on