How Do Cars Affect our Lives?
As many of the people who regularly read my articles already know, I am a resident of San Francisco. This isn’t a very car-friendly city and I haven’t bothered to have a car since I moved here. Being able to walk to most of the places I want to go and to take a bus or train everywhere else is one of my favorite things about living in San Francisco. I ride in cars now and then when someone offers to give me a lift somewhere or I travel somewhere that requires the use of a car but I only spend a handful of days out of the year in a car.
In contrast, my kid brother lives in Los Angeles. He drives everywhere and it takes him forever to get to most of the places that he wants to go. He is in the car for literally hours each day. And he loves it. He enjoys driving. He drives around just to see things. For him, the car is a fun tool for getting around whereas for me it’s a necessary evil to get to some of the places that I want to go. It’s interesting how cars play different roles in our lives these days. For him, it’s a tool of freedom and for me it feels like something that holds me back from my preferred transportation method of walking.
Here’s a closer look at the different roles that cars may play in people’s lives:
The Car As a Daily Necessity
The majority of people who live in America today consider their car to be a daily necessity for getting around. The car is used every day to run errands, go to and from work, drive over to friend’s houses and so on and so forth. When these people need to go down to the grocery store which is less than a mile away, they drive rather than walking or bicycling because it is just what they are used to doing. People who drive in this manner generally just take having a car for granted.
These drivers may use the car for travel but the majority of their driving is done within five or ten miles of home. Since they drive daily, the majority of the places that they go are the same places over and over again. For these drivers, the car plays the role of being the major mode of transportation around the area where they live and work.
The Car for Commutes
There are some people who do drive their cars every day but they don’t necessarily use the car for little trips and errands. These are people who drive daily specifically to commute from work. Many people drive from their home to their work and back again but leave the car in the parking lot or the driveway when they are not in one of these two places. In other words, the person commutes to work but then may walk or take a bus to get lunch and run other errands during the workday. For these people, the car plays the specific role of getting them to and from the two primary places where they spend their time.
The Car for Day Trips and Travel
This is the category of driver that I fall into. For the most part, I don’t drive. However, if I do have to get to a place which requires a car then I don’t hesitate to borrow or rent one to get to where I want to go. For example, if I want to go hiking up or down the coast away from the San Francisco Bay Area then I need to rent a car to do that. I also have to rent a car whenever I travel back to my hometown or to other places where cars are needed to get around easily (and where other modes of transportation just don’t seem to work as well).
For me, the car plays the role of allowing me to get a bit further away from home. It’s a bit limiting to me in the sense that I would prefer to walk or take a bus if I could. However, it’s also giving me freedom in the sense that I can go further away from home if I have a car. Typically the car in this case plays a role that combines the role of the daily driver with the role of the commuter. For example, I may use a car specifically to get from home to a primary location (such as a hiking spot) or I may use a car in a city that’s not my own for daily driving and getting around. The difference is that my use of a car is rare compared to either of these drivers.
The Car As a Luxury
There are two ways that a car may play the role of a luxury item for someone. The first is in the case of people who can not afford cars and who therefore see the car as a luxury of life that they can not have. The second is in the case of those people who have more than one car or a car that is very expensive and who, therefore, the car is basically a status symbol.
Believe it or not there are some people out there who still can’t afford a car and for them the car is a luxury. They take the bus because they have to and they don’t travel far because they can’t afford to. For these people, the car represents the role of a luxury item that they can’t obtain. It may be a goal in their lives to eventually obtain a car.
In contrast, there are those people who have multiple cars or who have high-end luxury cars. These people may be daily drivers or commute drivers or even, in rare cases, just day trip drivers but the difference here is that they also consider the car to be a status symbol for their lives. The car itself tends to take on meaning for these people instead of just being a tool for getting around.
The Green Car Driver
There is also one other kind of driver out there who kind of combines some of these other roles of the car into one and that’s the green driver. These are drivers of electric vehicles, hybrid cars and the cars that get the best gas mileage. These drivers may be daily drivers, commute drivers or day trip drivers. More importantly, they have a bit of the luxury car driver in them in the sense that the car for them is more than just a car but also a symbol that is representative of something more. In their case, though, the car is a symbol of their concern for the environment so it’s not a status symbol in a traditional sense but is still a way to tell the world around them what kind of driver they are.
What role do cars play in your life?
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