With the recent political debate about urban planning, critics have aimed at a symbol of American freedom: the automobile. They claim that America’s dependence on the car as the primary mode of transportation is not only not eco-friendly but disproportionately impacts the socioeconomically disadvantaged, results in land mismanagement through suburban sprawl, and is generally bad for the driver’s health. But is there any truth to these claims?
The automobile has long been a symbol of American freedom. From the 1964 Pontiac GTO to the 2022 Buick Enclave, the American-made car has roamed the vast highway network with style and sophistication. So what exactly is the problem? Critics state the American model of single-family suburban homes with, on average, 1.88 cars that commute via road to their destination miles outside their suburban neighborhood is a wasteful neighborhood expenditure of increased road maintenance and fossil fuel use compared to bicycling, walking or public transportation in the form of buses or trains. Additionally, critics state that the overwhelming number of American deaths via traffic accidents (approximately 46,000 deaths a year) is needless when cities could be built with more density in mind and public transportation options that would dramatically reduce traffic accidents. This urban density would also allow for more excellent housing supply and affordable housing for millennials struggling to afford the modestly priced median home at $374,900.
But isn’t the American lawn devoid of extant plant life, besides beautiful St. Augustine grass, a symbol of American family values and prosperity? Yet, homeowners across the nation feel they could not live without their yard and enjoy the privacy of living in HOA-managed suburbs where homes are luxuriously spaced 1o to 20 feet apart. Moreover, many Americans find it unimaginable to live in condos where they would be subjected to stairs, walk long distances, and develop interpersonal skills in getting along with their community members.
We need to be honest with ourselves and dive deep into our American roots to see that the automobile is as essential as the American Constitution. Our right to drive is our desire to go in style. Cities could do more to add more lanes to highways to decrease congestion. Millennials will need to work harder to achieve the economic genius of generations past to afford to house. They, too, will see the freedom of homeownership and the pride of a freshly waxed Chrysler Pacifica. America will drive on, and a V6 will never be replaced by a bicycle. In this way, four wheels are better than two.