An article this week in Road & Track magazine entitled “Will Ellis Drive?” got me thinking. Road & Track, a magazine dedicated to all things cars, seems more than a little disturbed (frankly befuddled) that those persnickety youngsters aren’t interested in getting a drivers license, much less buying a Lamborghini. The future of the republic apparently lies in the balance.
I took note because my son is named Ellis. He is six years old now, and as you can see, I’m trying to raise him (and my two-year-old Shaw) to understand there are more ways to navigate his world than from behind the wheel. Sure, we don’t live in the East Village with its impeccable walkscore and transit service, but I think my kids are getting it. We ride bikes, the bus and train at home, and recently spent spring break happily car-free in the Eastern Market neighborhood of Washington D.C. My observation is kids respond positively to the freedom of exploring their world not tethered to a car seat.
Reading the Road & Track article should give urbanists some joy, but be sure to read the comments. I couldn’t help but notice a sense of driving enthusiasts fearing they’d have their cars “pried from their cold, dead hands,” if you will. This is apparently a genuine threat to drivers, but even if a full quarter of millennials choose not to drive, there still will be millions of drivers in this emerging generation, so I think Road & Track will be OK. I appreciated the one comment indicating it was fine for some to choose not to drive, as it frees up lanes of traffic for those who really enjoy driving. Everybody wins, right?
Indeed, cars and the open road will continue to exist for a long time to come (even I love my car), but the future of our country may actually be richer if more of us choose not to drive.
I guess it’s a cliché to say so, but this just reinforces the idea that cars are more about just getting around. They’re a deep part of our identity. People find it very difficult to imagine life without them.
I read the Road & Track article and feel as if they were missing a huge element: not everyone can afford really exciting cars (and even if they could, that’s not “driving”). I don’t particularly like cars, but speeding around the desert in a classic, beautifully restored Porsche does sound like a lot of fun. So does taking a $100,000 Monster Truck over some sand dunes. You’d be hard pressed to find a 19 year old male who wouldn’t enjoy that. The problem is; that’s not driving. Driving is stuck on I-94 traffic in your Civic going to your job. Driving is buying gas, insurance, oil changes, maintenance, storage, etc.
Great point Nate. I guess that’s why car commericals always show cars zooming along on traffic-free roads. Even those commercials set in obvioulsy urban areas, it’s all green lights and empty streets.
Or then there’s that car commerical I keep being subjected to online — this entry level employee driving bigwigs around has such an impressive car he gets promoted (in people’s perceptions) three times during the course of the 30 second spot. By the end of the ad, they think he’s a VP and get’s invited to the bigtime meeting as he’s dropping them off curbside downtown. He just puts the car in park and hurries after them. Nevermind the obvious no-parking zone. The commercial ends before he racks up $385 in parking tickets and towing/impound fees.
So it’s typical that these Road & Track folks tried to convert Ellis to the car life with Lamborgini’s on a race track. Driving a monster truck through sand dunes may have nothing to do with driving around a Corrolla in Manhattan, but car culture has always been sold by elevating fantasy above reality.
I think Road & Track is worried that for too many people the realities of car ownership has pierced through the shiny veneer of beautiful cars decorated with bikini clad women. Wiping out your savings account (or charging a credit card) to replace a transmission tends to drive those realities home.