Mobility and class are deeply entangled. Not only because one's potential for mobility often has to do with one's economic position, but also because a society built on today's mobility paradigm – automobility – directly contributes to growing economic and social differences.
A society which puts the car on a pedestal quite obviously favours motorists. Another obvious fact is that white high-income and middle-aged men are an over-represented group among motorists. And the opposite is true among public transport users. But, a society that prioritises motoring, and looks at ever-growing mobility as an almost magical recipe for development, increases the differences between its citizens and different parts in other ways as well.
The current traffic hierarchy, with the car on top and with public transport, bikers and pedestrians at the bottom, manifests itself in the fact that these means of conveyance are given different amounts of space and resources. With the car on top of the traffic hierarchy we get a society built on automobility: a world where our lives, to a far too great extent, are steered by cars.
This article is written to clarify how the current traffic hierarchy manifests itself and what its consequences are: a society built on automobility does not only pose grave danger from an ecological point-of-view, it also enhances the current notions toward greater economic and social segregation. By highlighting the problems with the current traffic hierarchy and starting to map out the edges of another way of planning and handling movement we hope and believe that we can also give some clues on how to handle other societal problems.
The car is pitching us toward each other. Who has not experienced the feeling of putting oneself in a car and suddenly being transformed into a motorist? The pure act of putting oneself behind the wheel seems, for almost everyone, to lead to egotistic behaviour, a situation where everyone is trying to gain something on someone else's behalf. While driving a car, one's fellow human beings (other drivers, public transport users, pedestrians, bikers) become nothing more than obstacles. Who cannot, honestly, recognize the almost aggressive and competitive feeling that the car produces in oneself? Since we do not want to encourage this kind of behaviour, and since we are confident that one is not born a motorist, but rather becomes one, we strongly believe that the risk of people becoming motorists has to be minimized.
Because of this we do not only want to change the order of the traffic hierarchy and take the car down from its pedestal. Rather, we want a society built on totally different premises. A society where no one is forced into motorism, whether passively or actively. A society where proximity and availability to what people need to satisfy their needs and desires are put at the forefront. •
Download the complete PDF of The Traffic Hierarchy.
Also from Planka.nu, The Traffic Power Structure.
Planka.nu is a network of Swedish groups that work for free public transport. Apart from engaging in public debate, direct action, and guerrilla media, the network administers the “P-kassa,” a solidarity fund covering fines for people commonly known as fare-dodgers, although they are more aptly described as passengers in public transport engaged in an anti-fare strike. In 2008 Planka.nu started the international site www.FareFreePublicTransport.com, a meeting point for activists working for a free public transport.