Andrew Galambos famously declared of traffic jams that they are an example of the collision of capitalism and socialism: capitalism, he observed, being able to produce cars faster than socialism can produce roads.
But it’s much worse than that.
Capitalism is able to produce abundant forms of getting around. But they produce them faster than socialised planners can permit their use to cut down traffic jams.
Roller skates, roller blades, Segways, skateboards, scooters, jet packs, unicycles … they’re all viable forms of transport that “the authorities” either tolerate and regulate (wear a helmet, get a licence, use it in “the right place,” stay off the road/footpath) or, in the case of the Segway, prohibit altogether—deriving us all of potentially easier, cheaper, better, more fun ways of getting around.
More choice in ways of getting around our cities, just as we need more choice in the way we live in our cities.
Easier ways of getting around, perhaps, than needing to get around a crammed city using a large car.
More individualised ways, clearly, which is probably why they don’t fit easily (or not at all) into the planner’s socialised transport networks.
Which, like the Segway, offers a modern, clean, easy way of getting around a city. A city that could grow up in a form allowing easy use of such gadgets—with the classic “ten minute walking time” around which cities develop drastically changing urban design theories, just as it would dramatically change cities’ form.
Which, however, just like the Segway, instead of a city being allowed to grow up organically around this, or any other abundant means of cunning, stylish urban transport, it will probably be banned for that purpose so that cities can develop in the same old way under the same old planning restraints with the same old forms of transport. (Another example of “planning” stopping people planning.)
You just wonder how cars would ever have taken off at all if they’d been developed after town planning had been invented!
Options for city transport are often presented as an opposition between folks who want more cars on more roads, folks who want more cycles on more cycle ways, and folks who want more public transport—no matter how many (or how few) actually use it. That is to say, they all want more money spent on roads, trains or cycle paths.
But the field for choice is actually much wider than that.
It’s just that capitalism can produce more options than socialism can allow.
* Or just made less fun by being made to get licenses and wear “safety” gear and only travel in the prescribed areas and, and, and ...