A conversation auto manufacturers need to be part of
If you haven’t seen the drone coverage of San Francisco on YouTube, we highly recommend it. Watching it, one gets the sense this is what cities look like on holidays, days perhaps like Thanksgiving when we’re all at home. But then it hits you like a ton of bricks – there is nobody in the streets, not a soul. Well, that’s a small lie, there were a couple folks, but not even on Thanksgiving would you see such an absence of humanity out and about. This is eerie for us all, and some in the auto sector feel this is just a harbinger of things to come.
City planners have long been conspiring to wrestle away space from cars and pass it over to pedestrians and cyclists. We’re not going to enter into the merits of this, after all, we’re a car blog, and as such, like cars! The argument for less space is an environmental one and the two are not mutually exclusive. You can love your X7 and love the environment, and be pro-environment in your support of policies that help the environment. We just want to make that clear from the jump.
If we accept social distancing to be part of our lives for the foreseeable future then building out infrastructure to support that would be naturally smart. Protected bike lanes for example where riders can use them for necessary trips to the grocery or drugstore is smart. As is closing certain streets to cars so pedestrians have more space to walk as opposed to cramped sidewalks. Roughly 50 academicians penned an open letter to the UK government encouraging local officials to promote walking and biking. And yet another argument was posed that does hold water – if we don’t want our hospitals overwhelmed then cutting down on life-threatening car accidents would be smart.
Many cities have already started, Bogota, Colombia being one. The Andean hotspot built out 47 miles of bike lanes to reduce crowding and help prevent the coronavirus spread. New York has witnessed an explosion in cycling as people rush to avoid public transportation. The idea is to install bike lanes on 2nd Avenue (between 34th and 42nd streets). Mexico City meanwhile has seen interest in biking skyrocket fourfold over the first quarter this year.
Now, we know streets are less busy these days because of coronavirus. If we were staunch “anti-car environmentalists” (and forget about the merits of non-polluting vehicles), then yes, this is a fine time to push that agenda. In fact, one could say it is a once in a lifetime chance, easy. But bike lanes cannot simply replace the value of cars to our societies. A common ground is needed and the auto sector needs to play a role in these discussions. Look for more faces to emerge from leading manufacturers. It would be hard to imagine them sitting idly for a conversation as pertinent as this one.