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2007 Chicago Auto Show 99th Edition February 9-18,2007
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Some people may eventually need some kind of personal mobility assistance device in order to get around. But that device shouldn't be a 3000-pound vehicle that can easily go over a hundred miles an hour, which has to be operated by the person with a disability. Ideally, the majority of our everyday trips should be to places that most people can walk to, or that people with disabilities can reach with motorized wheelchairs or similar devices that are safe to operate on sidewalks. Instead of just mega-marts and big boxes, we should be able to go to the corner store for most of the things we need. Communities should be dense enough to support smaller mom-and-pop stores. And when we need goods delivered to our houses, the delivery trucks should only be operated by highly-trained, professional drivers who are continually monitored and tested to minimize dangerous driving. When we need to get ourselves to a different part of the city that's beyond walking distance, we should have frequent, reliable, accessible, and completely subsidized mass transit. However, every time someone gets into a car in the city, we get farther away from that "perfect world" and farther down the spiral of automobile dependency. In general, we should all have more realistic expectations of how much mobility we need in our daily lives.

Also, those of us who advocate to reduce automobile dependency aren't wild-eyed utopians. Why do people think that building communities around walking and transit is somehow less realistic than building ever more roads, and dreaming up new ways to power ever more private automobiles? We don't expect a "perfect world." We've spent the last fifty years building vast amounts of automobile-specific infrastructure. So we can't just suddenly say that people can't drive cars in this kind of built environment. (Although if you live in the city, even though transit, cycling, and walking could be a lot better than they are now, it's not really that hard to live without a car, and if you don't live in the city, you could always make the choice to move.)

But instead of focusing on all the damage that has been done, we need to think about the future. The question is, what are we going to do in the next fifty years? Are we going to have more sprawl, more highways, more cars, and more traffic fatalities? Or are we going to have the vision to create a world where most people don't have to bring two tons of metal to get themselves to work every day, and children can walk to school?

We say, we need more big thinkers and dreamers and idealists. We need to stop being so "realistic" and push even harder to change the massive inertia of the status quo. If we keep on promoting incremental improvements and half-measures because we don't have the vision or courage to push for real change, then we'll end up, well, exactly where we are now. And people will still be having the "how can we ask people to stop driving when they don't have any alternatives" discussion in fifty years. It's time to change the world. Today!


 
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