Why cars are banned from the People’s Republic

I mean, I’m sorry. I do try, I really do. My dad races 1960s sportscars. I feel a certain obligation to try to see the beauty in the combustion engine.

But I just hate the bloody things. I hate how noisy they are, how smelly they are, how ugly they are – I sometimes think I’ve gone through my entire life to date missing some essential eyesight component, because the cultural belief that cars can be attractive is so universal and unspoken and to me it just seems totally weird. I mean, it’s a tonne of metal and plexiglass held together with a bunch of rivets and welding in an unearthly shape of the sort that lurks in the nightmares of small children running a high fever. Exactly which classical muse are people invoking when they slap down their welding mask and set the nozzle on to Maximum Liquid Magna Core? Even the Greeks with their tremendous powers of imagination and penchant for fear-and-wonder spectacle never dreamed up anything as terrifying as the car.

But most of all I hate the way they bestride our cultural normative settings like a monstrous, greedy robot that demands one set of behaviour from everybody in the name of “convenience”. They demand that we pave over our gardens and flatten entire fifths of our city centres to create giant nightmarish concrete playgrounds for them, they sneeringly prevent our enjoying an innocent walk along beautiful wide Georgian boulevards without copping a lungful of exhaust fumes and an eye full of grit, they seal us off, physically and emotionally, from the world we’re moving through and ferry us as painlessly and thoughtlessly as a matter transporter from one dull duty to the next.

The irony is  they’re actually bloody inconvenient half the time. No-one, once they can drive, ever seems capable of the slightest cost-benefit analysis to see whether their car is bringing them net gain or just misery. People go through ridiculous twisted hoops of logic and effort to have them, use them and keep them – “I’ll park mine in the road with a permit until you take yours out, then put mine in the drive, except I’ll have to take mine out again before you get back because you’re doing the school run early tomorrow, but that means I have to come back from the pub which is five miles away to do it, and I won’t have the car, so I’ll get someone else who also lives five miles away from the pub to give me a lift back so I can move my car, although all that does mean that we’ll have used up our last permit so you’ll have to stop off on the way back from the school run at the post office, and that’ll mean parking somewhere so you’ll need some cash. There’s only a tenner in the pot – I’ll just pop out in the car and change it.” I mean, do you people ever listen to yourselves when you’re having this sort of conversation? Cars are part of the con, one of the great techno-egalitarian strides forward that was supposed to make our lives easier but actually ended up making it more complicated.

And these things fucking kill people, for god’s sake. As a pedestrian you live with the constant background terror that the next cretin tearing up molecules within a few feet of your precious human tissues will be the spontaneous heart attack victim or manic texter who will mount the pavement behind you and splatter your innards across their windscreen. You can tell no-one really cares about anyone else on the road because if they did, four-by-four drivers wouldn’t be such universal and unmitigated bastards – it’s because they know they’re safe unless they actually go and cut up a mechanised assault vehicle.

It’s not just pedestrians either – or at least it shouldn’t be. Motorways are places of such towering madness that it’s just as well all the people on them never actually stop to think about what they’re doing, because if they did they’d start screaming, “Oh fuck! I’m in a biscuit tin in a slightly odd sitting position being hurled along a stretch of asphalt at sixty miles an hour about seven feet in any given direction from a bunch of other hurtling people-tins who may or may not be on the verge of a heart attack/texting their boyfriend/have two brain cells to rub together AND WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!”

And yet, in the face of all this, it is the universal assumption that most people have a car! That most people choose to put themselves through this constant, multi-faceted hell of physical danger, logistical tedium and an administrative workload commensurate with fielding a small flotilla of submarines. And that they pay a fortune every month for the privilege! I’ve been flat-hunting recently, and the agent showing me a flat with a beautiful leafy garden seriously thought that one of its chief recommendations was the fact that it backed onto a service lane, so I could tear up the wisteria, concrete over the greenwood and park a car on it. I spoke to another agent only today to fix up an appointment.

Agent: “Fantastic, so we’ll see you outside the property at 3.”

Me: “Ok, great, what’s the address?”

Agent: “I’ll just get you the postcode… you’ve got satnav?”

Me: “No, sorry, we’re not yet in the cyberpunk future and I have not had satnav capabilities implanted into my temporal lobes, you petrol-headed pillock.”

It’s the same when they try to give you directions. “Go through the traffic lights, then take the third exit on the Western Way roundabout and you’ll see a hump-backed bridge sign…” That’s NO GOOD to me! I mean, whatever happened to the traditional method of giving someone the bloody address? Just, you know, the street name and the number of the house, so that I can look it up on what we call a map. Works great! Has worked really well for several hundred years!

You can possibly tell where this spiral of viciously disappointed rage is going. I’ve just worked out from obsessive examination of the particulars that the flat I have fixed to view with above-mentioned agent has, where nature and Victorian town planners intended a garden to be, a shared parking space with the flat above and not, as I thought, a parking space of its own which I could promptly reclaim for humanity with gravel, earth and tomato plants. Piss,  tits, bollocks and arse.

I don’t want a parking space! I want a bloody garden! You MANIACS! What have you done! The machines are already here and they’re already in control – no-one ever said the bastards had to be conscious.


  1. *gulp*

    I really like driving. I really like my car. Actually I love my car. I’ve tried the alternative – I really have. I held out until I was 25 before learning to drive after years of being crammed in like cattle on buses and trains and suffering delays, strikes and icy wealth broke me, and my futile, pointless, self-defeating principle that said I shouldn’t encourage the pro-car culture was exposed for exactly what it was – me, wasting hours of my life, every day, doing something I absolutely hated for no benefit whatsoever: commuting on public transport.

    But later I tried again, when I had another go for the sake of the environment and my bank account… and I went into a deep, profound depression. Could be a coincidence of course, but every time I’ve been without a car my world’s become smaller, more stressful and I’ve been significantly more ‘time-poor’ as they say.

    I guess it depends where you live – Yorkshire’s very different to London – but, honestly, I’m in the ‘I don’t care what it costs’ category. I need and want my car. I don’t care what it runs on or what it’s made from – I just want my personal transport thanks very much. 😉

  2. I guess it depends where you live – Yorkshire’s very different to London
    Well said. In tightly packed urban environs there’s not much need for a car. get out in the sticks, and it’s a different matter. However far fewer people in the cities actually venture out than you might think, and they’re a big problem, especially the wankers with huge vehicles (yes, the typical 4x4s, but also those massive baby bus people carrying things etc) which are just too bloody big for the streets we have in the UK.

  3. I love my car too. I love driving holidays. I’m planning to do unfeasible numbers of miles around France over Easter.

    But there’s no excuse in my urban environment. I should never drive into town and avail myself of my free councillor parking space. For heaven’s sake, it’s only two miles, if I walked it regularly I could eat more ^W ^W lose weight.

    And yet… somehow I never drag my weary body out of bed forty minutes earlier enough to walk it.

    Still, the last 10 days, the car has been broken, sat on the road outside the house gathering snow. And I’ve rediscovered the buses. Horray.

  4. Ok, being somewhere rural is definitely a different thing. And also, NOT being somewhere rural and still loving your car is fine too, we’re liberals right?

    It’s just that to me it feels like everything is now set up for the tyrannous majority who drive. People even talk about the “right” to drive, as if it was one of Tom Paine’s top ten. What about my right to walk around the planet in safety, peace and comfort? No-one seems to care if my right to opt out of car culture gets shat on on a daily basis, my public transport held up, my walking made more dangerous, my nice urban landscapes scarred by the NCPA and my garden concreted over.

    Whimper. Whine.

    Oddly enough, Charlotte, I’m reminding myself here of you in your post about 100w lightbulbs. Possibly gives you an idea of where I’m coming from.

  5. Oh dear oh dear. The only point of the ugly fleshy, hate-filled creatures who infest this planet is that occasionally some of them have enough love, craft and artistic vision to make something as glorious as this.

    Talk to your poor Dad some more. He sounds like a great guy. Get some help before it’s too late. You are not fully appreciating life if you do not love the motor car. My Granturismo will be at the upcoming Convention on Modern Liberty, so I can take you for a therapeutic ride if you like. Bring your dad. I like him already.

  6. I see… It’s a binary issue is it? Only one can be good?

    Personal transportation is crucial, from cars to bikes to feet. Going directly from a to b, on your own timetable is bad? Ridiculous.

    I don’t believe that public transport can ever be materially improved in terms of what it is and how it works., If you want a full complete service that reaches uneconomical areas it’s always going to be heavily controlled, regulated and therefore in need of large subsidies. The normal processes that improve service, reduce costs and improve efficiency don’t apply to public transport. Getting people out of cars will achieve nothing but more crowded buses and trains during rush hour. It won’t change the fact that everything will take longer, moving anything you can’t carry in your hands expensive and slow.

    People take the economic and personal benefits of the existence of cars for granted. Choose not to have one. Hate them. Think they’re ugly… Whatever. But personal transport isn’t going quietly or easily.

  7. What sort of freak doesn’t navigate by pubs?

    For example: to get to Elland from Brighouse:

    Go out of town towards the Red Rooster, past the Colliers, and turn left at the Barge and Barrel so you are going towards The Bridge. If you get to the Punch Bowl you missed the turning.

  8. Lovely post. My feelings are very mixed, & I hadn’t actually given it an enormous amount of thought, though I have just done so (I first saw this post around half an hour ago & have been ruminating on it :))

    I personally have never driven a car or wanted to, though I do quite like riding in them. My parents were among the few people on the estate I grew up on who had a car, & I was certainly better off than most as we put it to good use by visiting rural areas which would have been unreachable in any other way.

    This experience was to shape my later worldview in oh so many ways, & it’s why I’d advocate that youngsters from poor backgrounds should be introduced to the countryside & access should be opened up in general. This sort of driving is something that should be encouraged, & as Charlotte identifies driving is often necessary for work, especially when travelling outside large cities. I see where she comes from in doubting the virtues of public transport, though I do think there is room for improvement.

    But it is my view that there are simply too many cars on the road. Fuckers mouth off about “green cars”, & indeed they should be made more energy efficient & I believe industry will naturally move in that direction, with a minimum of government involvement (though regulation to reduce emissions would help).

    But what I want to know is how to you get a green road, or a green parking space? I do not believe such things exist… & these rural idylls which we went to are often clogged with cars, especially on holidays when small market towns cannot handle the influx. A lot of people have got into the habit of lazily using cars & need to ask themselves whether their journey is really necssary!

    There are lots of practical schemes liberals can put their names to. Encouraging parents to stop worrying & let their children walk to school would be good not only in environmental terms, but would be good for them socially as they would exercise & wouldn’t grow up being stifled.

    Rather than being put through a battery of tests, starting too young, they could be encouraged to delight in the natural world.

    If it is an especially dangerous area, then firstly I’d say that mistrust only makes matters worse, & secondly there is room for car sharing or for one parent who does not work or is not working at those hours to accompany the children. The school run could largely be done away with & we’d be better off for it.

    Then there is the encouragement of people to walk or cycle to work. Yes, I get lifts sometimes. But I also walk back, on quite a pleasant route actually, & I know a lot of people who’d benefit from this.

    These processes actually are under way, as people realise that this hateful culture of bigger, faster & more, without regard to other people or our world, is discredited & must end. I see no harm in helping them along.

    I actually do have a positive view of the congestion charge, & think that similar schemes should be given consideration, though of course I’d have to look at any specific scheme before making my verdict.

    None of these schemes are illiberal, & they would have extremely good outcomes. It is all about changing people’s minds by education & that sort of shite.

    I know some environmentalists are quite hectoring, but I prefer working with people (the same goes for vegetarianism) because I know they will go along with a lot of it.

    It is ordinary people who are against Heathrow, who want to stop the Coachmaker’s Arms in Stoke being demolished so some bunch of twats can go to yet another cloned shopping centre, who don’t want “eco” towns to be built on the fields they once played in, who want their household bills to be lower, who want to eat honest food & drink clean water, who want rural beauty spots for themselves & their descendants to enjoy, who want in short to do their bit & this is a bit that can be done!

    Not much swearing this time, eh? Funny, that.

  9. I’ve got a big baby bus thingy. I hate it. I only got it because the last time some idiot politician decided to ban something (children under 22 years old without car seats, or something) we discovered we could no longer fit all the kids in the old one.

    If people wouldn’t keep banning things…

  10. And what exactly is wrong with a cyberpunk future?

    Personally I’m thankful for Admiral Bob’s Global Security. I don’t know who you use, but I bet they’re not as good. General Jim? Pah!

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