Why I Hate Cars

“Hate” is a very strong word, which I try to avoid. But let’s just say I’m feeling pretty hatey at the moment — if not about cars themselves, then definitely about what they do to people.

  • I hate how most people who own cars become utterly helpless without them. The car breaks down, and suddenly a person’s whole life is derailed; they can’t go anywhere.
    I hate how even people who are on the low low end of the economy, barely scraping by, always manage to find money to pump into gasoline, car repairs, car insurance. No money to start a business or invest in something they’ve been really wanting (be it fruit trees, guitar lessons, or whatever), but always money to feed that endless money-hole that is automobile ownership.
    I hate how car ownership reduces people’s willingness to be flexible; to rideshare or take the bus. Everyone wants to leave exactly when they want to leave, so every single person living in a house has to have their own damn car.
    I hate how cars clutter yards and streets. I’ve been at people’s houses where you couldn’t even enjoy the view because the whole front yard and street were blocked by a wall of cars. Ditto for living next to such people. I don’t like to be that busybody neighbor who hates how someone elses’s yard looks; I would rather just be happy with expressing my decorating tastes in my own yard. But a yard jammed with cars is just invasively butt-ugly to me.
    I hate how cars and parking dominate civic meetings about urban redevelopment; how an entire much-needed and wanted project can get derailed by some bureaucratically determined idea of “not enough parking.” How a discussion about an exciting project goes on for an hour, and 50 minutes of that hour is taken up by concerns about inadequate parking, or people feeling entitled to free parking. (There are bright spots; some cities are experimenting with reducing or eliminating parking minimums, with success.)
    I hate how cars have given us the ability to travel twice or three times or ten times as far every day (for work, shopping, etc.) without really accomplishing any more, and arguably in fact becoming more worn-out, less healthy, more isolated, more socially impoverished — with radical reduction in time spent enjoying our homes, getting to know our neighbors, having time for hobbies, savoring the simple beauties of local life.
    I hate that a property owner on our Main Street chose to tear down a nice old commercial building rather than leave it intact, because a parking lot was more lucrative than any use he/she could possibly have imagined for the building. I hate that it wasn’t the first time that happened.
    I hate that any tree, anywhere, ever, has been killed to make room for a parking lot.
    I hate that cars take up space in perfectly good driveways and garages that might better be used for higher purposes. (My new favorite “outdoor living room” is in my driveway! I’ve set up outdoor furniture in an inviting L arrangement. The furniture is positioned far enough back that the driveway can still serve that time-honored public function of driveways: giving motorists a way to turn around — yet it takes up enough of the driveway that no one can park there unless I choose to move the furniture.)
    I hate that cars, even the small ones, are so big and clunky, taking up so much space in relation to the utility they provide. Why can’t the darn things just fold up tiny so they could fit in a back pocket, or at least a briefcase, once they’ve carried you to your destination? (On that subject, another article from Strong Towns: Can parking spaces stand to shrink?)

The good news is, many people and communities are finding ways to wean themselves off of car dependence, without losing the benefits of automotive transport or even necessarily having to forgo the joy of owning and driving a car (which is a real thing; I don’t own a motor vehicle now but I have in the past, and I understand the attraction).

Oh, one more thing: Family cross-country trips by car were a major, and to me very rich and beautiful, part of my childhood. Ditto for some long-distance solo roadtrips I was privileged to take as an adult. It is possible to hold those lovely memories of travel by automobile (and even to love truckstops and adore vintage gas-station signs, which I do), and still not like what cars have done to people and society.