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The War on Cars is real

nissan z
CC/Flickr/creativelabs ck-cabrio
Are you going to put snow tires on your Nissan Z? They probably don’t even make snow tires for that size of wheel. logo

The War on Cars has a long history. Once the story hits NPR, you know it’s real, or maybe the existence of the #WARONCARS hashtag proves it. While the debate continues, I have determined the The War on Cars is real.

If you really love cars, you’ll be surprised which side of the war you should be on.

In Minnesota, we love to drive everywhere, but we really don’t have a “car culture.” It’s not like Vegas, LA, or San Diego where you can find thriving car clubs for many models.

Most of this has to do with the weather. A mentor once told me “If you can live in Minnesota, you can live anywhere. We have 140° total difference between winter and summer.” It’s true. Then there is an ongoing joke that in Minnesota we have two seasons: Winter and Road Construction — which is more of a reality than a joke. Because of the rigorous freeze/thaw cycle, the pavement is very susceptible to the dreaded pot-hole, and it’s a widespread problem. Driving around in my Subaru — with stock suspension — I can’t even sip a coffee without it splashing in my face.

Our lack of car culture could also be due to our penchant for being practical. Driving a high-horsepower rear-drive car year round here isn’t exactly practical. Are you going to put snow tires on your Nissan Z? They probably don’t even make snow tires for that size of wheel. Besides, I’ve seen the salt we put down rust out a car that is less than a year old.

At some point every Minnesota resident just said, “Screw it, I’m getting a Buick.” It’s inexpensive and cushy — who cares if it gets rusty.

So if you really love cars, you will want to be part of the War on Cars. But you really have to love cars. If you modify them, race them at the drag strip, enter them into car shows or competitions, drive them in parades, do autocross or road racing, and truly enjoy the car itself and not just the convenience, I’m talking to you. The side you will want to be on is the side that will get all of the Buicks and Camrys out of your way.

If you have a nice car you may have some disposable income. Would you pay to have fewer cars on the freeway? I would. Congestion pricing could do just that.

If you are a true car lover, you respect your vehicle enough not to drive it in the Minnesota winter. But instead of buying a winter beater, take the bus, and put your one car under comprehensive insurance only. You’re probably already paying for premium fuel which isn’t getting any cheaper. The fuel and insurance savings over the winter should be more than enough to cover your bus pass and congestion pass. You might even have some extra cash leftover, go buy yourself a fatbike for Christmas. It won’t fit in the rack on the front of the bus, but it will be awesome to ride around the paddock at the racetrack.

To the others that think they’re car lovers (but are really posers in love with the convenience, not the machine) — I’ve noticed you’re starting to trade your Buicks in for Priuses. I applaud the environmental effort, but I don’t want to see the streets crowded with hybrid cars. I’d rather they be crowded with hybrid buses and taxis, bikers and walkers. Think London, not the “mini Los Angeles” that our sprawl currently resembles.

This post was written by Justin Foell and originally published on Follow on Twitter: @streetsmn.

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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Emily Sojourn on 10/21/2013 - 08:05 am.

    Perhaps Justin…

    …could explain how I, as a social service worker, will be able to transport a client (who lives outside the bus line) to a job interview in the next ‘burb. Maybe he could give me tips on how I am to transport a classroom full of AV equipment back and forth on my fat bike. And I could use some tips on how I’m supposed to afford a second vehicle on a non-profit salary. And finally, please let me know when the buses finally travel regularly to Glenwood, MN so I can finally go back to visiting my relatives.

    Sorry for the passive aggression, but sometimes I get tired of the holier-than-thou approach used in so many of these anti-car articles. It’s not fair to heap all people who drive into one, “you-just-love-the-convenience” category.

    • Submitted by Justin Foell on 10/26/2013 - 07:37 pm.

      You’re doing it right

      Emily, I appreciate your passive aggression, we are Minnesotans after all. If you’re outside of public transport reach you may have no choice. If you use your vehicle for a job (and not just transport to your job) then you may have no choice. If you’re transporting large amounts of equipment in a utilitarian vehicle then it is not for convenience, it is for necessity, and that is the key difference.

      I’m also not advocating purchasing a second vehicle, to the contrary even. The article was written to speak to the “gear heads” out there, of which I am one. Gear heads by nature are usually compelled to be conservative, and I want them to see the war on cars in another light, so they don’t immediately choose the “other” side.

  2. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/24/2013 - 07:51 am.


    Emily, no one is saying bikes, buses, or trains will replace cars. The intent is to give people additional forms of transportation so they can use them if they fit their schedule and lifestyle. I bike to work because I too work for a nonprofit and that doesn’t leave a lot of excess funds at the end of the month. As added bonuses it gives me daily exercise and a healthy dose of nature as I bike down the Cedar Lake trail. And it’s faster to bike in than drive down 394.

    But I also own a car to run those errands after work and go visit my girlfriend on weekends. When I fly out of town I use the light rail to get to the airport so I don’t have to pay the high parking fees at the airport.

    No one form of transportation is going to work for everyone all the time. Pick and choose what works best for you at any given moment and go with that. But let’s not pretend that cars are the be-all for everyone’s transportation needs.

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