Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 16th 2014 Contents BG24 COMMENTARY
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt OCTOBER 2014 • WEEK THREE
An escalating war is being waged in cities
across the world; a movement that is
establishing new norms, and empow-
ering today s generation of city-dwellers.
This is not a violent war, but a battle of ideologies,
and its sheer magnitude and significance is probably
lost on most of us, because we are a complacent society
generally uninterested in ideas that challenge the status
We cannot ignore the inevitable disruption to our
way of thinking, because sooner or later we have to
understand that the single greatest threat to the stability,
longevity, and vitality of our society here in T&T is
our obsession with automobiles. The war against the
automobile is coming. The opponents, pedestrians
and cyclists need to be armed and ready to win.
For years, we have planned and designed our urban
environments with the idea that cars should be the
most important mode of transportation, with little
consideration given to pedestrians, cyclists and public
modes of transportation.
The result is a low-density urban form known as
sprawl, that among other things, is characterised by
a lack of investment in pedestrian infrastructure. This
results in environments that are designed to facilitate
the movement of vehicles, but are hostile to other
modes of transportation, including walking and cycling.
It is also characterised by a separation of land uses,
where our homes are located far from the places that
we work, play and recreate. We are forced to drive,
often long distances, despite our glaringly-obvious
culture of drinking and liming until ungodly hours.
Conversely, there are numerous examples of places
that were planned with mobility of all groups as a
central factor, and so one could hop on a train, bus,
or simply walk home!
Consider two developed countries---Germany and
the United States---with car ownership rates of 572 per
1,000 people and 797 per 1,000 people, respectively.
The 2010 road fatality rate in the former was 4.7 per
100,000, and 11.4 per 100,000 in the latter. Further-
more, the yearly alcohol consumption rates are 11.21
and 8.55 litres per capita, respectively. In other words,
Americans own roughly 40 per cent more cars, but
get into 143 per cent more fatal accidents, despite Ger-
mans drinking 31 per cent more on average.
Why? Perhaps it may have something to do with
Germany s fantastic public transportation systems,
and compact, walkable communities.
A closer look at our love affair with automobiles
reveals very interesting economic consequences. The
United States is the country that led the automobile
revolution, around the beginning of the 20th century.
It was the major producer of cars; it possessed vast
deposits of energy, and was one of the wealthiest coun-
tries in the world. However, today the country with
the highest gross domestic product in the world is
taking drastic steps to reduce its automobile dependence
and promote alternative modes of transportation.
It makes absolutely no sense that a small developing
country like ours should depend so heavily on private
car use. We do not produce cars, so our obsession
with them only serves to fatten the pockets of foreign
car manufacturers. The unbearable traffic congestion
that we face daily is crippling our national productivity
and unnecessary, given our small size.
Furthermore, on the individual level, consider how
your dependence on an automobile can be a significant,
and unnecessary, drain on your income.
Automobiles are not cheap, and given the incredibly
high import duties, and our low household income
levels, you can begin to see how you can easily become
Well, fortunately or not, our fuel is heavily subsidised,
making driving economically-affordable. Yes, gas is
cheap, but how much money does one spend on gas,
compared to the cost of buying and maintaining a car?
It makes absolutely no sense
that a small developing country
like ours should depend so
heavily on private car use. We do
not produce cars, so our
obsession with them only serves
to fatten the pockets of foreign
War on driving
T&T Society of Planners
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