Old elpaso
When most people think of transportation, they think of walking out their door, getting in their car, and driving somewhere. That is, unless they can't afford a car, or worse, get too old to drive. Not too long ago I saw a story on one of our local TV stations that asked the question 'How old is too old to drive?' The story of course was based on the assumption that one needs to drive to be able to be mobile, productive and get around, and that older people would lose their freedom if they had to stop driving. I thought about my own parents, and especially about my father who has voluntarily all but stopped driving. Then I began to really wonder about why he made that choice... Every time I hear a story of someone losing the “right to drive” it is usually accompanied by a sense of isolation, grief and even a feeling that one can't be independent any more. But how independent are we, when we've found ourselves made slaves to a single form of transportation? If our car breaks down, are we suddenly made helpless? Do our legs stop working? It can feel that way, because for so many of us, this is the world we know, to go somewhere you must get in a car. As children, so many of us walked or rode a bike, but now most children are taught from an early age as parents shuttle them back and forth to school daily, is that the only “safe” way to get around is in a car. Riding a bike is what you do for play near your house, or at park. Walking is what you do from the front door, to the car, and once you've reached your destination, from the car to the door. I myself roamed the neighborhood and beyond sometimes. I explored places. I even rode a bike as I delivered newspapers each afternoon. Would you let your child do these things today? When I ask this question of others, they tell me no, it's not safe out there. There are too many cars... And driving their child to school each morning means one of those cars is theirs! We've created our own problem, by telling everyone there are too many cars, we have in fact encouraged parents to drive their children to school because it is the only “safe” option, thus adding that many more cars each morning, and reinforcing the message that you can only get there by car. Planners, TRAFFIC engineers and developers haven't helped either. Once the car came on the scene, we as a society began to reshape and reorganize our communities around the car. Suburbs began to pop up without sidewalks, roads got wider and wider, and neighborhoods got isolated. As more and more people began to live further from downtown or urban hub, they lost touch with the sense of what a walkable, livable community really was. Suddenly a trip to the grocery store was an expedition, not just a walk down the block. We need livability engineers to design livable space for ALL. So in that light, it's easy to see why people fear giving up driving, because they feel they will be isolated, and miles and miles away from daily necessities. Ok, well most people are these days. But the point is, the basic assumption was you could always just hop in your car to get there. Why would you need a store close by? Why would you need easy access to transit to cover greater distances? Why? The car was, and still is, for most people the answer. We don't have cars in case we need to go on a long trip, we have cars to go on short trips down the block, or around the corner, or to carry the kids to school, to pick them up, to run errands, to take us to the gym to exercise, to carry a month's worth of groceries rather than fresh goods for the next couple of days. We, as a society, have made the car so much a part of our lives that we even talk about our “love affair” with cars! We can't imagine life without them!

Copyright © 2019 Velo Paso Bicycle-Pedestrian Coalition.
A 501©(3) nonprofit organization.