ZHENGZHOU, HENAN PROVINCE, CHINA, 2018

Congested traffic on a motorway near a toll booth during the final days of the Mid-Autumn Festival

Reuters

© Reuters

As a society, we are entirely dependent on automobiles for transportation. Statistics show that the ratio of cars to inhabitants is almost 1:1 in highly industrialised countries. But do the benefits of car travel truly outweigh the drawbacks? Of the many disadvantages that automobile use inevitably entails, let’s consider one that is rarely mentioned: land use.
To use a car, we require a dense network of infrastructures (roads, motorways, toll booths, parking lots, petrol stations, etc.), both within cities and between city centres. The phenomenon of cars as the primary means of transportation began about 100 years ago, profoundly changing the urban topography to the point where cities today are no longer designed on a human scale, but on a vehicle scale. The volume of vehicles on our roads creates another problem: all of the square kilometres paved over with asphalt and reserved for vehicle use represent land taken from potential agricultural use. This is a considerable loss, given exponential – and very rapid – global population growth and the difficulty we are already facing today of feeding everyone appropriately and sufficiently. After all, the solution is right under our noses: as a culture, we need to free ourselves from the “dictatorship” of our cars.

Sofia Belardinelli