A recent surge of traffic accidents and fatalities involving pedestrians and cyclists in my city has got me thinking.
When I was 13 I was on my way home from school one day and got hit by a car, which put me in the hospital with bruises, scrapes, and a concussion - fortunately nothing worse. When I turned 17 I took driving lessons, which scared the living daylights out of me. The drivers in Montreal are notorious for bad manners, reckless behaviour, and law-breaking when there are no cops around to witness them. Much to my parents' dismay, I made a conscious decision that I would not drive a car. Period. I did not want to be at the controls of a machine that was capable of killing me or other people given one second of distraction.
"But having a car is a necessity!" everyone said. "You need to get to work, to medical appointments, anywhere." WRONG. At least, not in this city. Yes, I admit that travelling by public transit can be a pain sometimes, and it takes longer in most cases to get where you need to go. But it's a LOT less stressful than, say, being stuck in a traffic jam or having someone rear-end you on the highway. And the monthly cost of a transit pass is FAR less than the cost of the vehicle, insurance, and fuel.
All that being said, I respect and admire cars. I have been to a few automobile shows just to look at the designs and feel the emanations of power from these machines. I've even scored high on a variety of "name the TV show that featured this car" quizzes. The auto is so firmly ingrained in our society that more movies and TV shows that I can name have paid homage to it. Who doesn't recognize the Lincoln Futura from the 1960s Batman series? The Pontiac Trans-Am from Knight Rider? Or the DeLorean DMC12 from Back to the Future?
Some say that automobiles will cease to exist when we no longer have the fossil fuels to power them. Electric cars are still expensive, inefficient, and have a limited range. We are far from the nuclear-powered car that we see at the end of Back to the Future. (And "flying cars" do exist, people: they're called personal aircraft. You need to know a whole different set of rules plus have a license to use one.) However I think there will always be some sort of personal transportation device - chariot, buggy, car, no matter what we call it - because our society has been built around it.