Date: Feb 15, 2022, Twitter Spaces
Guest: Doug Gordon
Outline of the chat (about 30min total):
Superbowl was full of EV ads
How can we imagine a future without cars?
What’s one thing you learned?
(All discussion paraphrased unless it's in direct quotes)
DG: The title of my podcast, The War On Cars, is tongue and cheek because "if you take as much as one parking spot, you’re accused of waging a war on cars.”
EH: Cars are super dangerous and we don't say that enough.
DG: Car crashes are one of the leading causes of deaths of children (neck and neck with guns, "which says something about our country"). The air pollution they create is one of the leading causes of death of everyone. Not to mention the more than 1 million people who are killed in car crashes each year globally. Car deaths went up a lot in 2020, people were driving a lot faster because the roads were empty.
But it’s hard to motivate people around the idea of “we’re all going to die”.
There’s a lot of joy to this work - you get exercise, you save money, if you see interesting things you can stop, riding a bike doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. Riding a bike is a part of climate action I like to call "joyous action”.
EH: All that's super true, also there’s no black and white - you need a car every now and then.
DG: 45% of all trips in the US are 3 miles or less, those can be done without a car for many people. The advent of e-bikes is that they're not bike replacements, they're car replacements. I ride a e-bike in NYC over bridges in the middle of summer, and I show up to work looking great. They flatten hills and shorten distances.
“To the extent we have cars, they should be electric, but we should have a lot fewer cars.”
With EVs, you reduce or eliminate tailpipe emissions, but that’s just part of the problem. “Cars are a geometry problem, not a technology problem”. Cars force our cities to be way more inefficient, dangerous, and wasteful than they would be otherwise.
EH: I thought it was interesting that many of the controversial Super Bowl ads were about EVs.
DG: Many of the models featured in the Super Bowl EV ads are not yet available for purchase. In GM's Dr. Evil ads, only 1 of the 3 or 4 vehicles shown are even planned for production, the graphics they showed were computer renderings.
In many cases, EVs are even more dangerous than gas vehicles. The electric Chevy Silverado, for example, will weigh about 7-8k lbs, twice as much as a 1999 Chevy Suburban. E-bike batteries weigh about 5lbs.
EH: What advice do you have for folks wanting to get involved in bike advocacy?
DG: Focus on the joy of riding bikes. And give your local leaders the win for every day victories. At the city council level in NYC, elections hinge on a few hundred votes. We like to think of ourselves as a big city, and we are, but we basically function like a Parks and Rec episode. I know my city councilperson. I invited them to a grand opening we had for on street bike parking at my kid's school. We even had a ribbon cutting.
EH: This was a great conversation. What did you learn?
DG: I learned that I could think of bike action as a great way into climate action. Sometimes I think of them as separate things, and they're really not.
Also, seeing kids bike on the bike lane you helped into existence — there's no better feeling in the world.
This post was updated to correct an editor's error in the statement that car crashes cause more than 1 million deaths annually around the world, not just in the US alone.