This piece first appeared as weekly NMA E-Newsletter #511 on October 28, 2018.
Even though drivers constitute what should be the largest voting block in the country, you would never know it by apathetic motorists who drive blissfully unaware until they are confronted with the reality of the war on cars—which is essentially an effort to get people out of their cars for good through regulations that impede traffic flow, policing for profit and taxation through tolls.
For example, despite our continuing efforts to organize resistance:
- Why haven’t drivers formed a protest group in New York City against Vision Zero and the fact that elected officials are trying to turn the entire city into one giant speed trap? (The NMA is working to form a group now—contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Where are the Chicago area drivers (besides in court) forming a coalition to rid their cities, towns and villages of the ever present red-light cameras that seem to dot nearly every intersection?
- In North Texas, how many more toll roads can drivers really afford to pay tolls for on a daily basis?
The list could go on and on…
Make no mistake, there is a war on cars out there and do motorists even notice (besides NMA members of course)?
Anti-motorists groups are making their voices heard loud and clear during city council meetings, state or regional commission meetings, at the state legislature, and by writing online comments and editorials. Make no mistake, the bicycle lobby is not complacent. Neither is the automated camera lobby. Nor is the “speed kills” lobby.
Over 80 percent of all Americans over the age of 18 hold a driver’s license. If the traffic problem affects them personally, motorists can often exhibit their frustration through aggressive driving behaviors but it would be constructive if that aggressive energy were to be channeled into organizing with other drivers like themselves who are as “Mad as hell and don’t want to take it anymore.”
One of the biggest ways one can make a difference in your own community is to keep tabs on what your city council is doing with regards to street restrictions including creating road space for largely unused bike lanes, Complete Street projects or Vision Zero initiatives.
If you don’t like what your public officials are doing, then elect others, stand together and urge your representatives to listen to what you have to say.
A recent example–
The California community advocacy group Keep Pasadena Moving formed in March as a local group working on common-sense solutions to transportation safety issues. Now with 500 supporters, the group came together to keep Orange Grove Boulevard (a major thoroughfare) off a road diet.
The city had been planning this road diet since 2012 but recently, due to the gas tax increase, the city finally had the money and scheduled this Complete Streets Project. The road restriction plan was to convert a 1.8 mile stretch from a current four-lane street to a two lane, with a center lane for turning and the other lane used for bicycles (and eventually scooters).
Residents in the area were concerned that an artificially limited Orange Grove Boulevard would heavily impact the traffic patterns on adjacent neighborhood streets.
Earlier this month, the city council decided to shelve the plan. The city manager made the recommendation due to the perception that the community would not be able to find a compromise and that there was a lack of funding for any option other than the road diet. Frank Duerr of Keep Pasadena Moving lauded the council for listening to residents’ concerns.
The issue of road diets is not over for Pasadena since the Complete Streets philosophy is part of the city’s 2015 general plan. The Complete Streets idea comes from the nonprofit Smart Growth America’s National Complete Streets Coalition which promotes a transportation and design approach that requires streets to be planned for road users of all ages and abilities regardless of their mode of transportation. In October, 2017, over 1,140 agencies at the local, regional and state levels across the United States have adopted Complete Street policies. Last year, the Coalition became a partner in the Vision Zero network.
An emerging example of someone getting involved on more of a micro level—a New England member recently contacted the National Office with a question on how to solve an issue within his cul de sac.
Parents and their small children had appropriated the street for a hard-top playground. This member explained that recently it took him a number of minutes before he was able to enter his driveway because 20 adults and their children along with many toys needed to be moved out of the way before he could get there. The parents were angry because he dared use the only drivable entry to his property.
Also, these parents are organized and have already rallied city hall for a Kids Playing Here sign (which is not an official traffic sign) and have asked the city council to lower the speed limit to 10 mph. The city mayor has ignored our member’s personal entreaties to him for clear, safe (for all) ingress to and egress from his property so legal remedies may be the next consideration.
If you don’t have time to do any other advocacy work this year, the one thing that you can do is VOTE on November 6th and every time there is a local, state or national election. Beforehand, educate yourself about the candidates and their stances on the motorists’ issues that matter to you most.
In the meantime, we recommend that in addition to voting, begin learning more about motorists’ rights by subscribing to our newest service, Driving News Daily (DND) a Monday-Friday email of the latest news from around the country and world. Encourage your friends to subscribe to DND too as well as this weekly E-newsletter. And if you have not joined the National Motorists Association yet, then do so TODAY!
This past week, the National Office also started a new Facebook Page called the War on Cars that will feature stories and eventually a new NMA blog of the same name coming soon to the NMA Website. Check out the Facebook Page HERE.
Write letters/emails or make calls to elected officials, unelected public administrators and the media. Make online comments wherever you can. Apply pressure on motorist rights causes that are important to you.
Never too late to begin working as a motorist rights’ advocate until it is…let’s don’t lose this war on cars!