Why do we live like this?

Laurence Inman continues his campaign against the hypocrisy surrounding the nation’s love of  vehicular transport.

stop sign

Many, many years ago I was given a Walkman for my birthday. It was one of the earliest models. It took cassettes. As far as I was concerned it was the greatest technological breakthrough since the pointy-headed screw. I took to wearing it while cycling to and from work every day.

One morning, as I stopped at the lights in Vicarage Road, a policeman thought fit to proceed in my direction and tell me that it was illegal to listen to things through earphones whilst cycling.

‘How can this be?’ I enquired of him, ‘when it is plainly the established practice among car drivers that the radio is on, often at full blast?’

He gave me that copper look. You know the one.

I further opined that I would, if I am to meet my fate on the Pershore Road, as seemed inevitable given his profession’s reluctance to do anything about speeding traffic, prefer to meet it with Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony soothing my frazzled lugs.

‘Take it off or I’ll take it off for you.’

Plod was like that in those days. Hard-faced bastards, often with scars. None of this please-and-thank-you-sir nonsense. A few years previously a purple-nosed, red-faced, beer-gutted old sergeant at Kings Heath nick had told me that even though a whole bus-shelter full of people had witnessed a nutter deliberately sweep me off the corner of Poplar Road and the High Street, he ‘wasn’t satisfied that an offence had been committed.’ And laughed while he said it! The Criminal Injuries Board disagreed, and awarded me a lot of money.

Nowadays, drivers are allowed to distract themselves with satnav screens on their dashboards, flashing out little animated route-maps. I cannot imagine why sane people don’t see how dangerous this is. How are they still legal? Is there a satnav lobby, threatening MPs with dismissal, subverting the democratic process, like the ‘road lobby’?


The lorry driver who killed Hope Fennell in Kings Heath had been using his mobile to text someone earlier and then tried to delete the messages, while she was lying in the street. It will be interesting to see what happens when he is sentenced in a few weeks, on April 2nd.

We must change our attitudes to cars.  These dreadful deaths on our streets are not something we lamely have to accept. If they were happening in plane crashes, there would be lengthy inquiries, followed by new legislation.

If the annual total of road-killings was matched by bomb outrages, the state and all its apparatus (including the police) would stop at nothing to find the culprits.

But idiots and psychopaths can kill hundreds every year with their vehicles and we say: ‘Oh well, it’s just one of those things, can happen to any of us, wasn’t really anybody’s fault, accidents will happen…..’ And the attitude of the courts reflects this.

I hope that on April 2nd we see a change. But, to be honest, I’m not optimistic.

 Read Laurence’s article last week on this subject here.

17 thoughts on “Why do we live like this?

  1. I recall three “reclaim the streets” protest/parties in Bham in the 1990s or so. One blocked the bull ring circus all afternoon at the G8. One blocked Pershore Rd/Priory Rd for 3 hrs on a Saturday. A third blocked Moseley “high streeet”. But cars and roads are seriously big money and money spending is what controls governments and controls what happens. Unlike sitting quietly spending nothing.
    However, “the times they are a changin”. The vehicle miles travelled have peaked for the first time ever (apart from ww2). The end is nigh for the worst invention ever.

      • Yes, I know people would put some weapon first. But the car has caused vastly more damage to communities in a whole range of ways (beside its direct violence and air pollution poisoning) Streets that were centres of community get turned into lifeless death metal sewers. Community cohesion is further undermined by lack of localisation. A vast regime of 24-7 terror terrorises children and adults from the public spaces, and teaches and promotes a mentality of not caring about the locality and community that one is merely “passing through”. I could go on but you probably still don’t get the point as the damage has been greater in rural areas than urban.

        By contrast, guns have enabled people to defend themselves from violently-inclined people. Cars are a far easier way to kill a few people anyway – you don’t even need to get off your backside to do it, and generally don’t even get threatened with imprisonment.

  2. Lawrence Inman has written two highly thought-provoking, reasoned, rational and moving articles. By contrast Robin, and by no means for the first time on this website, your reaction is characterised by a hysterical rant, which does neither you or your argument any credit. I have never owned a car and I do not drive and I probably share many of your concerns about cars and their impact upon society. But your references to ‘lifeless death metal sewers’ and ‘a vast regime of 24-7 terror terrorises children and adults from the public spaces’ simply do not correlate with my daily experience of urban (or indeed rural) living. Which should not be taken to read that I am unaware of the negative impact of cars on society, something which I long ago worked out for myself. However, your demonising drivers as uncaring, insensitive killers in waiting is patently absurd. Most of my friends and family (and I’ll bet yours too) drive and I would imagine that a high proportion of the readers of this website do as well. And they routinely do so carefully, courteously and with due care and attention. If any of them were involved in an accident where someone was killed or injured they would be filled with horror and remorse and I imagine it would haunt them for the rest of their lives.

    You remind me of Homer Simpson shaking his fists at the clouds. The car can no more be ‘uninvented’ than can music or the internet. Cars (or some form of personal transport) will be with us for as long as mankind exists. Its effects can to some extent be ameliorated and one day (and perhaps within a few decades) all new cars might run on clean energy, but I would suggest that the vast majority of the world’s ever expanding population will continue to either use them or desire to use them. Society is simply not going to revert to pre-Victorian era, where mobility is limited to how far a person can walk or if they have access to a horse. People the world over like cars and their convenience, they believe that owning one provides them with substantial benefits and are prepared if necessary to pay a large proportion of their disposable income on maintaining and using one. That is the stark reality and if you want to have any meaningful impact on the debate then you need to start from that understanding rather than raging against this particularly popular machine and turning people off with your ludicrous exaggerations. I read Lawrence’s articles for enlightenment, but I read your comments for entertainment.

    • Steve, your reply to my reply shows a profound lack of insight and lack of objectivity, a lack of an outside view of the little world you have grown up in. Instead of statements of fact you resort to crude language such as a stereotyping reference to Homer Simpson and “your reaction is characterised by a hysterical rant”.

      You claim that my words are gross hype and yet you provide no evidence to substantiate your assertions. When I wrote “Streets that were centres of community get turned into lifeless death metal sewers.” I was describing the village in which I lived for 23 years and still visit regularly. I have seen with my own eyes the absolutely appalling devastation which that and other such communties have suffered at the hands of motorists. The words I used are already understood by many others. Your dismissive reply just shows how hard it is for some people (especially the urban-centric mentality) to see fully through the system of conventional delusions in which they are enmeshed.

      Again, this next sentence you dismiss out of hand but provide no evidence against: “A vast regime of 24-7 terror terrorises children and adults from the public spaces,”

      Again that is simply the facts. Children nowdays are treated like prisoners because it is “not safe” for them to go out playing as was natural for a million years till cars came along. The reason it is “not safe” is not because an army has invaded but because of that death metal thuggishness pervading just about all our streets under delusion of being oh so nice considerate friends of Steve so they must “really” not be thugs actually (so nothing needs to change, keep driving your BLACK car at 40 in the dark, folks). Ditto the conventional crap that “cycling is too dangerous” (translation for Steve: “Motorists are too callously and smugly murderous”) which is the MAIN reason why people say they do not cycle. These are facts, which your cheap references to ranting and Homer Simpson do not in the slightest challenge.

      You then start digressing about people you know being so courteous and concerned etc. Again I know FROM DIRECT EXPERIENCE that even people who would otherwise be very careful and considerate, once they get in a car do not drive remotely considerately of non-motorists. The vast majority proceed on the basis that if they can’t see something ahead then just keep going same speed. They proceed on the basis that it is the non-motorist that is responsible for getting out of their superior way, and just an “accident” if they happened to be driving too fast – as they almost always are: the vast majority of drivers consider it perfectly acceptable and normal to ROUTINELY break the law, the speed limits which are far too high already. HUGE NUMBERS of people continue to be cheaply killed and horribly by the speedophiles you so happily defend here. I speak from DIRECT EXPERIENCE of being a cyclist constantly encountering the average four-wheeled thug in suit and tie on way to a very caring job, and as person regularly trying to cross roads where the MAJORITY of drivers do not REALLY give a damn about the huge trouble they cause. And that’s even though they have already TERRORISED most people out of cycling and playing in the street. Yes, terrorised by brute force. You should get your blinkers off Steve and get out of that Matrix you’re caged inside.

    • Steve wrote: “this particularly popular machine”
      Really? If it is so popular why is there a hugely strong inversely correlation of house prices with nearness to the busy streams of these popular machines? Surely everyone would want their house as close as possible to flows of such popular machines.
      And why have people regularly started major campaigns about the death-metal streams of these fat smelly noisy deadly “popular machines” speedophileing through their town and demanding huge expenditure on a bypass so they don’t any longer? And why are so many motorists regularly in a bad mood about the driving they “have to” do? More Beauchampé blinkers it seems.

      • Furthermore your notion that the car is here to stay and can’t be uninvented is just yet more Matrix-think from you here. Far too many things HAVE been uninvented (lost from common knowledge) actually.
        As I stated, the actual usage of vehicles has already started to decline (in US at least) for first time since ww2. Fact, note, Steve. That decline is going to massively steepen as people increasingly find they can’t afford their death-metal whizzing any more. And once 20% of Motorheads find themselves wheelicly disenfranchised, and very angry as a result, the remaining 80% will become too vulnerable to hijacking and the only things left on the road will be tanks and apcs. Sooner than you think, folks. But carry on in your Matrix…..

    • Furthermore Steve, you may just about remember the fact that the first cars were only allowed to go about 5mph and then only with a man with red flag in front. I could add in a report from the 1880s of police arresting a man for cycling “furiously” at the terrible speed of 20mph. You etc. in your muddled view see these as quaintly laughable historical peculiarities, but in reality those are the natural proper reactions of civilised people, whereas your reaction is that of one who has grown up in an unnatural tip of death-metal filth and has never known any better. Sadly it takes more than travel to broaden the mind. Cheers!

    • Robin, seriously, take a few deep breaths and calm down. If this is how you react to someone who is basically in support of your stance then you are destined to campaign in splendid isolation. If your postings on here are not hysterical rants then I really don’t know what are. You insult me, you insult millions of people whom you do not know, and in consequence of this latter point you do nothing to further your cause. But then, what is your cause? The number of cars worldwide is increasing, in China and India, South America, across Africa and yes, in Europe and North America too. People know the downsides, but they massively prefer the upsides. They may not want a motorway or main road or near their house, but they want such roads to allow them to drive to their destinations, just as they say they want local shops but then use supermarkets. Yes, it’s irrational, but then human beings are.

      So what exactly do you want? A car-less society? A pre-industrial agrarian society? And how do you propose to achieve this – perhaps by forming the UK wing of the Khmer Rouge? Robin, I will say this to you one more time, folks the world over want a form of personalised, private transport. Something that allows them to travel to see people, places, conduct business, leisure activities at their own convenience and in the company of family and friends.

      So if you want to do anything about the dominance of the motor car, understand and accept that, and campaign for better road safety, higher environmental standards for vehicles, tougher laws for those whose carelessness behind the wheel maims or kills, but in measured terms that don’t turn everyone off. Because right now you are like Homer Simpson shaking his fists at the clouds, or like that bloke who used to walk down Oxford Street with a placard saying ‘The End Is Nigh.’ And no one will take you seriously.

      • Steve, I don’t know your background or foreground, but I do know from what you’ve been writing here that you haven’t a clue about the reality of the “modern” world and are unlikely to get a clue anytime soon. Sad but true, and true of so many millions more who thought they were usefully educated but weren’t. Cheap stereotyping metaphors and the like may impress yourself but they won’t impress me nor turn the tide that dooms the temporary blips of history that are cars and cities. See you after the politicians say no-one saw the octuple-dip “recession” coming.

        • Ooh now Robin, you’ve thrown in a bit of a curveball there….’the temporary blips of history that are cities’ Well, currently running at a 7,000 year blip, but ignoring that minor detail, how’s that prophesy of yours going to work then?

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