Mark Twain once said, “Buy land; they’re not making it anymore.” As the world’s population explodes it is pretty easy to understand the amount of real estate each individual has at their disposal, gets less and less because… “They’re not making it anymore.”
I’m not just talking space to live, there has to be space for businesses for people to work and buy food and other necessities. The biggest user of space in our society is the automobile. If each individual has an automobile that vehicle uses more space than the individual that owns it, if you include roads, and places to park, etc.
Each factory or shopping mall has a parking lot bigger in area than the actual building structure. Every highway takes up at least twice the space of the actual paved road, if you include the verges at the side of the road, the median between lanes, and bridges and intersections can take up acres and acres of space.
It is not by accident or some act of governments the two of the smallest countries in Europe are also the most bicycle friendly; Demark and Holland. (Netherlands) It is not so much that these two countries developed a bicycle culture; they never really opted out of it, while after WWII the rest of Europe followed the United States and gradually switched to a society dependent on automobiles.
Up until the 1960s even Britain still had a bicycle culture. Not only did the majority of the population not own cars, but most had never learned to drive. People rode bicycles to work, children rode to school, and ladies did their shopping on a bicycle with a basket on the handlebars. There was also a good public transport system; trains and busses.
Lack of space forced Denmark and Holland not to opt for an automobile society? When you look at the size of these two countries it is easy to see why; Denmark’s area is a total of 16,629 sq. miles while Holland is 15,892 sq. miles. Both these countries could almost fit into my current home state of South Carolina, at 31,113 sq, miles, and South Carolina is not a particularly large state. Compare this to California with 158,706 sq. miles, or Texas 268,820 sq. miles.
It is hard to convince the average American that we are wasting space it would seem there is still an abundance of it, but the more space used to accommodate the automobile, the more people are forced to live further and further away from the city center, and more space is required for roads to get people to and from work, and still more space to park once they get there. Not to mention the cost of fuel and wear and tear on a vehicle.
It then gets to the situation you have in Los Angeles/Long Beach/Riverside, California, where urban sprawl has reached 4,850 sq. miles. It is not unusual for people to commute 80 miles each way to work, because the only home they can afford is out in the desert somewhere east of the city. Five and six lane freeways still fail to move the volume of traffic, and become parking lots during rush hour.
In the above picture I count approximately 8 cars per lane, from the bridge to the foreground of the picture. With one individual per car that is 40 people using up this huge area.
Let’s forget for a moment that fossil fuels will eventually run out. I can remember 50 years ago people said that oil would run out in 20 years, and still we keep finding more. Let’s also forget for now that burning fossil fuels is causing global warming. Both these may be sound arguments, but are a hard sell to many people.
One of the biggest issues I see with the automobile is the terrible waste of space. In time technology may find alternative fuels, but apart from multi story buildings and a few underground tunnels, technology cannot produce more space.
We can no longer support a situation where every individual owns an automobile; families will have to share one car. This means someone in the family will have to ride a bike, at least some of the time.