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Might, Right, and the Fight for Safe Cities - Sierra Daily
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Sierra Daily

Mar 20, 2013

Might, Right, and the Fight for Safe Cities

TrafficSierra is already working on its second annual installment on electric cars. (Look for it in our July/August issue.) The category grows as more automakers offer more models -- from gasoline-free electrics like the Nissan Leaf to gasoline-sipping plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt -- and more public charging stations are installed, primarily in our urban areas. The Charge Point network, for example, lists more than 800 charging stations in or near the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Urban areas are already the best served by public transit -- and often laced with bike lanes -- so it justifiably leads some to ask: Are cars necessary at all? Treehugger points us to a fine essay on the impact of autos in London. Bruce McVean, founder of the Movement for Liveable London, notes that "the big villain isn't the internal combustion engine, it's the car." McVean writes: "Even when driven carefully and slowly, cars dominate our streets and impose themselves on other users. They're bulky and everyone knows their potential to harm. Add speed to the equation and they own the street completely. As Ian Roberts and Phil Edwards argue in The Energy Glut (another must read), "Possession combined with brute force make up ten-tenths of the law."

McVean points to research that shows that cars are needed for about one-third of the trips that are taken now. As anyone tempted to move beyond car ownership (and climate-disrupting fossil-fuel use) knows, there are plenty of opportunities: a sturdy pair of walking shoes, a sleek commuting bicycle, a car-sharing program among them.

Image by iStock/maogg.

HS_ReedMcManusReed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked on the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term. For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas ever thus.”


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