Home World Politicians are giving mixed signals about the ownership of private cars

Politicians are giving mixed signals about the ownership of private cars


THE ALLIANT ENERGET CENTER, a stadium complex in Madison, the capital of Wisconsin, hosts a variety of events, from exhibitions to concerts. In November, he hosted Mega Monster Trucks Live, a three-day event apparently dedicated to suffocating its members, mostly families with young children, with exhaust fumes. The stadium was filled with mud and two large ramps on which five huge cars were jumping. “I know we have big fans of monster trucks!” Called the breathless announcer. At some point aging BMW was raised to the arena to have the trucks crushed. The rider roared with a bikini-clad model riding a rudder carrying an American flag. Children in mufflers screamed with delight as cars with names like “Kamikaze” and “Prison Bird,” each a good five feet (16 feet) high, pulled donuts and lifted dirt.

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At such exhibitions, America’s automotive culture looks stronger than ever. What’s more American than owning a giant pickup truck? The huge parking lot near the center of Alliant was filled with cars like Ford Ф-150, a pickup of almost the same size MSherman’s 4 tank was used in World War II. President Joe Biden proudly calls himself a “car guy,” and on Nov. 17 was photographed driving an electric Hummer, a civilian version of the Humvee, near a plant in Michigan. The Back Better bill, which is being debated in Congress, includes large tax breaks for the purchase of electric vehicles. Pete Butigig, Mr. Biden’s transportation secretary, sings praises by electric pickup, including a version Ф-150 as a solid alternative to gasoline for rural Americans.

Two legs are better

And yet American politicians are not all as obsessed with cars as they used to be. Madison, a liberal student city hosting a monster truck rally, boasts how many of its people walk, ride public transportation or bike to work. A number of city leaders elected across America have vowed to push people out of cars. For many, owning a car is no longer a great aspiration. At the same time, America is softly following the pattern that has been established in Europe for decades and is now accelerating. On both continents, mayors want to reduce the number of cars to reduce congestion and pollution.

However, national leaders tend to want to add to this to help the automotive industry. The result is a controversial policy where people are encouraged to buy more and more cars, but find that they are increasingly unable to use them the way they would like. Car ownership is becoming political.

In New York, Eric Adams, the future mayor, though known for violating parking rules, has promised to finally introduce a congestion charge in Manhattan. In Boston, Michelle Wu, another newly elected mayor, promises to make several important bus routes free over the next two years. In Cleveland, Ohio, elected mayor Justin Bibb promises to put “people over cars” and encourage more people to ride bikes and walk, mostly by turning lanes into guarded bike lanes. Various cities such as Buffalo, New York, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, have begun to abandon “minimum parking” rules, which required developers to provide sufficient free parking in new buildings. Even in California, a state where driving is virtually a way of life, members of the state assembly have proposed bills banning cities from introducing a minimum of parking near public transportation. LA Metro, the Los Angeles transportation agency, is studying congestion prices.

European cities have been doing this in some cases for decades. In 2003, London set a congestion charge. The leading city now may be the French capital Paris. Under Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of the Socialist mayor, and her predecessor Bertrand Delanoe, cars were banned on the left and then on the right bank of the Seine in 2013 and 2017. On the right bank, the Georges Pompidou Expressway, which proudly opened it in 1967 when he was prime minister, has been transformed into a kind of city park. Ms. Hidalgo, who achieved this despite lawsuits by the right, called it a “conquest” of the city for its residents. Now there are bars on the open sections of the road, while families on bicycles go through terribly quiet (and now unpolluted) tunnels. Ms. Hidalgo was a vocal proponent of “15-minute cities,” the idea that almost everything a person needs for daily life should be within a 15-minute walk or bike ride.

As public transport was closed or not recommended during the blockade in France, “we did not want people to return to their cars,” said Christoph Naidowski, Ms. Hidalgo’s deputy in charge of transport. So the city quickly opened more bike lanes. In just a few days in May 2020, they converted 50 km of roads into exclusive bike paths. The locals called them “coronaists,” and they may be less beautiful than the whole of Paris; raw concrete blocks, soon covered with graffiti, separate cyclists from motorized traffic. But they worked. When France’s first closure ended last summer, there were 60% more cyclists on the roads of Paris than in the previous year, and the number continued to grow. “In just a few months, we did what it would take us four or five years,” said Mr. Naidowski.

Exclusion zones of cars

It’s not just Paris. The UK government has given local councils the power to close roads to create “low-traffic areas” (LTNs) without the usual consultation with the residents who block them. Pillars for planters have spread across the cities of England, blocking residential streets for all but bicycles (usually residents can get in and out of their cars but can’t get through). When the blockades began, Amsterdam temporarily banned cars from the three central boulevards Spuistraat, Harlemmerdijk and Harlemerstraat. Change is now likely to become permanent. Like Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, hosted CS26 last month, city leaders announced plans to ban all cars in the center over the next five years, hoping to cut carbon emissions. In New York, as in many other places, street parking has been converted into an outdoor dining space so restaurants can stay open. Chicago has announced plans to build another 160km of individual bike lanes.

Such a policy works. From 2001 to 2019, car ownership in Paris fell from 60% of households to 35%. But they are not always popular. Drivers, especially those living in the suburbs, are being attacked by city policies aimed at preventing them. In France, although the changes made in Paris are generally popular, it is almost impossible to charge for congestion, Mr Naidowski said. The national government, which should have approved it, is still shocked vest yellow (yellow vests) protests that began in 2018 against President Emanuel Macron’s proposal to raise the price of gasoline. In New York, congestion proposals were also stopped by the state assembly and then the federal government, although the state governor and city mayors were in favor. In London, the expansion of LTNs, and fees for polluting old cars, led to protests and vandalism.

In general, the support of a car owner is a good policy for national politicians. Car owners tend to be older, and older people vote more. In America, the poorest fifth of the population spends 29% of their income after paying taxes on transportation, almost all of it on the purchase and operation of cars, and even the richest fifth still spends about 10%. In countries with a first-place voting system, such as the United Kingdom and the United States, they are also more likely to live in sprawling areas, such as suburbs, while people who travel less live in downtown cities, which usually have political character. safer.

The cost of operating a car in many countries is actually falling (see chart). The UK Conservative government has been postponing a planned increase in petrol taxes every year for more than a decade. The last time the federal government’s gas tax in America was raised was in 1993. On Nov. 23, Joe Biden said he would release oil from strategic reserves to lower gasoline prices, which have risen 55% since last year. Electric cars likely to be even cheaper to operate.

Yet a growing number of drivers believe there is what Rob Ford, the former mayor of Toronto who smoked crack cocaine, called in 2010 the “car war”. Some of this is misleading. In America, some right-wingers have spread the idea that the secret UN Agenda 21 calls for a ban on personal cars. In Britain, Pierce Corbyn, a conspiracy theorist who believes Covid-19, vaccines and global warming are all scams, has promoted a campaign to get drivers to break new driving rules in London. But much is motivated by the real politics of the city. In Germany Picture, a bright tabloid, a fiery culture that is “against cars and people hoping for four wheels” . In Britain Daily Mail led a long campaign against LTNs and bike lanes, claiming that they create congestion and increase pollution.

Going right

This may reflect a car ownership policy. In Britain, an analysis of exit polls in the 2019 election showed that car owners were more likely than non-owners to vote for the Conservatives by 17 percentage points, while Labor had a similar lead among non-owners. In America, a Stanford University study using data collected from Google Street View images found that if sedans exceed the number of pickups on porches, there is an 88% chance that the city will vote for Democrats in the presidential election; if on the contrary, the probability that he will become a republican is 82%. Polls by consulting firm Strategic Vision in 2017 found that Republicans are about eight times more likely than Democrats to drive heavy pickups.

Car use continues to grow, but mainly because baby boomers who grew up with cars have taken the place of the older generation who have never learned to drive. Young people are less at the wheel. In America in 1983, 92% of people between the ages of 20 and 24 had a driver’s license. By 2017, this figure had dropped to 79%. The average age of a new car buyer is now 53 years. In Germany, between 1998 and 2013, car ownership declined for all ages under 40, but rose sharply among people over 65. Young people are more likely to live in cities and prefer a public transport port (perhaps because they can still use their phones).

After all, it could mean fewer cars on the roads. At the moment, however, despite car bosses ’fears of a“ peak car, ”the number of cars continues to grow. And as it happens, traffic rules are bound to become more controversial. Over the next two decades, the amount of time lost in traffic in Britain is likely to increase by 50%, according to a study by the Tony Blair Institute, a think tank conducted in August. But he found “a huge opportunity to rethink our relationship with our cars and the incentives we invest in their use”. This will be the introduction of road pricing, that is, tolls on almost all city roads. Mayors struggling with air pollution and constant congestion will almost certainly agree. National leaders who need to care for a senior, gasoline leader, vote, will probably think otherwise.


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