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Supremacy of the automobile in America


Staff member
An article in The Atlantic magazine aptly outlines the supremacy of the automobile in the USA.

It’s no secret that American public policy throughout the 20th century endorsed the car—for instance, by building a massive network of urban and interstate highways at public expense. Less well understood is how the legal framework governing American life enforces dependency on the automobile. To begin with, mundane road regulations embed automobile supremacy into federal, state, and local law. But inequities in traffic regulation are only the beginning. Land-use law, criminal law, torts, insurance, vehicle safety regulations, even the tax code—all these sources of law provide rewards to cooperate with what has become the dominant transport mode, and punishment for those who defy it.

Over my long career, I have come to appreciate that we have grossly over-valued the role of the automobile in our communities, and I have been actively trying to correct that through a more permissive zoning ordinance in terms of multi-family and residential density; in terms of street design that is much more equitable for pedestrians and bicyclists; and, in pointing out the role the tax code has played in encouraging sprawl. I despair that it is not enough, but remain hopeful that at least it is a start.


Cyburbian, raised by Cyburbians
The article is fantastic, and I absolutely second the sentiments you express in your post. I feel the same way about my work over 15 years now. I do what I can but it doesn't feel like enough. It's exhausting to try to make people care about things.