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Cars are tools of oppression

Any time bike lanes or public transport improvements get discussed on the Internet, there’s usually at least one comment that goes something like this:

Those changes would only benefit rich software developers that live downtown. Poor people have to commute into the city by car from far away for their minimum-wage jobs.

Clueless Internet comment-writer

E.g. car-centric road infrastructure benefits the poor, whereas bus, rail, and bike infrastructure is just making their lives harder.

This is bullshit.

Cars are a luxury only the rich can afford. Forcing everyone to “need” a car to get by, by building infrastructure that benefits cars at the expense of all other means of transport, is oppressing people that can’t afford them.

Here are all the things you are forcing poor people to pay for, just to keep their jobs, when you focus on cars:

  • Thousands of dollars to purchase the car
  • High interest (low credit ratings don’t help) rate loan payments
  • Registration
  • Insurance
  • Gas
  • Parking
  • Maintenance and repairs

For the average American, this adds up to $8,000/year or more. If you’re earning minimum wage, your yearly income might only be $15,000. So poor people are forced to spend more than half their income on just a means of getting around.

On the other hand, a monthly pass for the Seattle-area ORCA card would set you back $1,080/year. A good-quality used bike can be had for less than $500, and kept in good condition for $300/year.

In addition, poor people often have their quality of life most negatively impacted by cars. Rents are lower next to busy highways, with smog-filled air and excessive vehicle noise. Urban sprawl fueled by car-centric infrastructure puts low cost housing far from the city center.

Don’t pretend that cars are there to help poor people. If you really wanted to make things easier for them, you would build infrastructure that made it easier for them to get by without a car.

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