How we get to work and school are not as often thought about as the locations themselves, but are just as important. How you get from A to B affects you, your health, the health of others, and even the planet.
So, what options are available? For day to day transport, most people use one of the following:
-Private automobiles (Cars, trucks, buggies, snowmobiles)
-Public transportation (Busses, trains, trolleys, subways)
-Other vehicles (Bikes, skates, scooters)
The most popular method on this list, by far, is cars. According to a Global Consumer Survey by Statista, 76% of Americans use cars as their primary method of transportation. Indian River is no exception to this. In a survey of 33, 94% of Inland Lakes students said their primary method of transportation was by car. 3% said public transportation, and 3% said biking.
This answer seems obvious at first, but car-centric design is inefficient, hostile towards humans, and incredibly dangerous.
To begin, it’s important to note that while manufacturers champion cars as the ultimate symbol of freedom, they are really quite limited.
They require massive amounts of dedicated infrastructure that costs hundreds of millions to maintain- one study by Transportation for America found that it would cost 231.4 billion dollars nationally to repair and maintain all US roads.
This need for dedicated infrastructure limits the car from the mobility potential of bicycles and walking, but retains none of the speed or safety advantages of rail transit.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there was a car crash every 6 minutes in 2020, with 0.7% of those crashes being fatal. A study conducted by Ian Savage of Northwestern University found that train travel was 16 times safer than using a car per mile traveled.
As for speed, the highest legal speed limit in Michigan is 75mph, less than half the 200mph average speed of Japanese bullet trains.
Trains are also more efficient, carrying far more passengers in a much smaller space than cars.
There are more advantages to building cities around pedestrians and public transportation. Optimizing for foot traffic makes cities denser and businesses more accessible. After rezoning parking spaces for pedestrians, New York city saw a 172% increase in retail sales.
Cars harm the environment as well. Not only do they rely on finite non-renewable resources like oil, they produce vast amounts of co2 in a world inches away from the greenhouse gas tipping point.
So there you have it: cars are inefficient, dangerous, and all around inferior compared to the alternatives. So why is everything built for them? We have no trolleys, subways, or regular buses in Indian River, no bike lanes or islands, there are massive portions of road that don’t even have sidewalks or crosswalks, buildings are sprawl out inefficiently to accommodate cars with parking spaces, and no passenger train to speak of in the entire county.
To learn more about alternatives to car dependency, visit Not Just Bikes.