Americans put over 13,000 miles on their vehicles every year. If car commercials are to be believed, this is all done off-roading into the woods and driving sports cars through empty, rain-slicked city streets.
In reality, much of this mileage is racked up commuting to work. And, according to Texas A&M’s Urban Mobility Report 2019, the average auto commuter spends an extra 54 hours in his or her car every year on top of the time it should actually take to get to the office.
If you live in a city like Los Angeles, San Francisco, or New York, that figure doubles. In Los Angeles, for example, commuters spend 119 hours each year delayed in their cars—that’s almost three full weeks spent idling. Sure, there are podcasts, and catching up on phone calls, and dozens of other tips and tricks for convincing yourself it isn’t a waste of time, but the truth is that if the 128 million Americans who drive to work only spent one extra week in their cars every year, that would mean, collectively, that we waste nearly 2.5 million years annually stuck in traffic.
Those same cars are belching out greenhouse gases, a key component of global warming. It’s estimated that “20 percent of emission reductions needed to limit temperature rise need to come from trips avoided or trips shifted—from cars to trains, buses and bikes.”
In addition, motor vehicles remain the leading cause of death in the United States, killing over 35,000 people every year (along with the eight people hospitalized and 99 people treated and released for every one person who dies).
While these are all good reasons to reconsider our love affair with cars, there’s an extra bonus that doesn’t often enter the discussion. Places without cars are simply more pleasant places to be.
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