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Chelsea sits down with Doug from The War On Cars podcast to talk about suburban sprawl, car culture, consumerism, and how all three have come together to make America a much worse place than it needs to be.

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Hello, everyone.

It's me, Chelsea Fagan, founder and CEO of The Financial Diet, and a person who loves to talk about money. And one thing that we've talked about a fair amount on the channel and elsewhere when it comes to money is how so many norms of American life have really, really negative impacts on our finances.

Now, to be clear, a lot of the economic problems that Americans face and that trickle down-- ooh, yikes-- to our everyday consumer and financial habits are policy-driven. Like, the fact that child care is so expensive is a direct result of policy decisions. And the fact that banking is essentially unregulated in a whole lot of ways and allowed to ride roughshod over individual retail bankers and faced almost no consequences after 2008, which has had all kinds of disastrous effects, is also in and of itself a policy question.

Politics is a huge part of money. And politics is also a huge part of what we're going to be talking about today, but it's not the only part. As I said, a lot of the issues that we face when it comes to the financial lives we're living stem from pretty uniquely American norms and cultures and aspirations.

One of the most popular videos we ever did on TFD was all about various sort of grown-up purchases, or life moves that are ruining people's finances. And for a lot of Americans, one of those things is owning a big house in the suburbs. It's not quite as much of a norm as it used to be.

However, it is still for many, many Americans considered not just something aspirational, but kind of a rite of passage when it comes to becoming financially solvent, and an adult, and having a family. Now, there are a lot of issues in there. And we are actually going to be doing a small series on the American suburb and the impact it's had on our money in the future on the channel.

But it's not just some of the stuff that we talked about on the video, like the fact that while American families have been getting smaller, our houses have actually been getting bigger. And we're using less of them as a result, but they're necessitating way more energy consumption. It's also where these homes are placed.

The fact that it's considered a default option for every house to have not just a garden, but a yard-- and we can get into yards, and we will-- doesn't just mean that the house you're paying for and the lawn that you're having to water is bigger. It also means that you're farther apart from everything. There are huge swaths of the country with basically no public transportation, no sidewalks, even, and very, very little way to get around except for driving cars.

And as a result, for most Americans having a car is one of the largest day-to-day expenses that they carry. It's not just the car itself. It's also the insurance and the upkeep and the gas, which is increasingly, for many Americans, a huge, huge strain on their weekly budget.

And it's also not just the suburbs. I live in New York, which is amongst probably the best in terms of public transport and infrastructure that we have in our country. But I go to Los Angeles at least once or twice a year every year for work.

And trust me when I say that I am often going on 45-minute walks in that city, where I'm like barely encountering a sidewalk, and I'm in danger of getting hit by cars the entire time. So it's not just an urban versus suburban thing. And it's also not just a certain kind of person.

Car culture, and the culture of, more importantly, not investing in public transit, or even considering really walking or biking as a default option, has all kinds of hugely negative impacts on American's finances. And also, let's be clear, and perhaps even more importantly, the environment. My guest today is a co-host of a podcast that is entirely about rethinking and unlearning this American obsession that we have with the car and with driving.

We also happen to be recording on a day where one of the most accursed of all the accursed New York Times columnists, Ross Douthat-- Douthit-- whatever it is, I don't care-- wrote an article about driving essentially being sort of an essential component of the American soul and ethos. We'll get into that article and all of the other stuff I'm talking about. But first let me welcome my guest today, Doug Gordon, co-host of The War on Cars.

Hi, Chelsea. Thanks for having me. This is great.

And before we get started, I want to thank Avast for supporting today's episode of The Financial Confessions. Avast's new all-in-one solution, Avast One, helps you take control of your safety and privacy online. Learn more about Avast One at avast.com.

Thank you for being here. So quick question. Obviously, we kind of teed it up as far as how this pertains to people's finances.

But just to kind of get a little bit more about who you are, can you talk about your background? But also, why, in particular, you came to specifically hone in on this issue? Right.

So professionally, I work in television, communications, media. I grew up in a suburb of Boston, and it was entirely car dependent. Which one?

Andover, Massachusetts. And as soon as I got my driver's license, I drove into the city with friends, parked the car, and then would walk around or take the T. And I had a lot of family here in New York.

And I was always drawn to cities and city living. And that sort of sparked my original obsession with, hmm. Maybe this-- maybe I'll be happier in a place where I don't need a driver's license.

I don't need a car-- just to have fun. And I've always been obsessed with New York, and moved here the first chance I could. I love that.

And so you live in Brooklyn? Yes. And would you say you mostly get around on bike?

You know, it's funny. So I am a bike activist, and that was my entry into this world. And I started thinking about these issues because I was biking to work, and there would be a bike lane on a street where the day before there wasn't a bike lane.

And I started to think, well, how did that get there? Who put that there? Who in the city makes that decision?

And that sent me down a rabbit hole of bike activism. But I would say I'm mostly a pedestrian. I think most New Yorkers are pedestrians, first and foremost.

And I rely on the subway about as much as anybody else. I took the subway to come up here, too. Interesting.

Yeah. Well, for context for the audience who may-- I mean, I'm sure-- how many of you guys are following me on Twitter? Hopefully, not that many.

But I actually have been recently really getting into using my e-bike as much as possible. Do most, I would say, of my commuting on e-bike. Google Maps now defaults to the bike distance when recommending where to go.

It's very cool. But when I talked about it, and I was just sharing some tips that really helped me out in my first couple of months and helped kind of get over the fear, which I think a lot of people have, and we will talk about that, people really recommended that I speak to you guys-- because you're not the only host, and you were gracious enough to come. But what's interesting to me about what you talk about, and what we're talking about here, is that part of it is like you're saying, the bike infrastructure, all those things, which now more than ever I'm very aware of is important.

But a lot of it is also sort of the public transit side of it, and really, sort of thinking about who gets it? Who's entitled to it? Should that even be something Americans are thinking about?

And I'd love to hear what it's been like talking about these dual issues. And specifically, how it intersects with people who don't live in these big cities where we have so much access to this stuff? Yeah.

I mean living in New York and being based here for the podcast definitely skews the conversation. I think that's true of San Francisco. That's true of DC; Boston, to a lesser extent; Chicago, also.

These are the places where a lot of our media is based, a lot of our entertainment is based. And so it kind of skews the conversation. And 99% of America-- you need a car.

You just need a car as sort of your general entry into society to feed your family, see your family, go see grandma on the weekends, go to work, go to school. And so there's this sense, I think, that public transit and living a life where you can walk everywhere and bike everywhere is like this elitist thing. And to some extent, it is.

Because the places where it's easiest to do that are obscenely expensive, especially as we face a housing crisis all over the country. But we sometimes then ignore the people in the rest of the country who can't drive. And that's a lot of people.

That's children. That's elderly people who have to give up driving. That's people with disabilities or health issues that prevent them from driving.

So there's this assumption that the dominant culture in America is driving, and that is certainly true to a large extent. But there are lots of people in small town America, in rural America, who do not drive for their daily needs and can't. And so we're trying to move the conversation towards, like you said, a relearning or an unlearning of an American way of life, so to speak.

Before I moved to a large city with a lot of infrastructure, I had an incredibly fraught relationship with driving. I got in several accidents. I actually ended up getting my license suspended.

I got arrested because I was driving on a suspended license. It was a whole thing. But basically, in the last few months before I left the country for a couple of years, I was in a suburban area without a car.

And it really was, to your point, such a massive awakening of how hostile so much of the country is to people who are not necessarily even looking to bike around or walk around, but just trying to get to work. There's almost-- even buses, there's almost no infrastructure. Do you think that this is something that you see?

Because in my area where I was, it's pretty blue. The entire-- it's pretty progressive comparatively, but it was still suburban. Do you see a lot of overlap between politics, and specifically, transport infrastructure?

Oh, it's nothing but politics. I mean how we move through the world is the result-- sort of like you were saying in your intro-- of political decisions. It's not just preferences that people have.

It's policy that's made from on high from elected officials, from lobbyists, from the automotive industry. And so every conversation that we are having about cars on The War on Cars is a political conversation. It's a cultural conversation as well.

And the way that we got here 100 years or more after the invention of the car is through a series of political decisions. I highly recommend all of your viewers and listeners read Fighting Traffic by Peter Norton, historian. And he talks about what happened in the 1910s, the 1920s, when cars first came on the scene, and how there was a huge pushback.

Cars were coming. They were seen as elitist toys because only wealthy people could afford them to maybe like get out of the city, to go to a country home, or go for leisure drives on parkways. And cars were killing average people here in New York.

Lots of children were dying all throughout the country. And there was a huge, huge pushback against that. And what then started to happen, because the car companies knew they had a problem on their hands, was a political push to change the narrative to change the culture.

And it's a really long story, but that's where we get things like jaywalking. There was no such thing as jaywalking when you don't have cars. You can just walk.

There are no crosswalks. There's no traffic signals. But the auto industry pushed this.

And so flash forward to the building of the interstate highway system of the subsidization of the suburbs after World War II, of the oil crisis in the '70s, where we sort of like-- the rest of the world said, hmm. Maybe we should rethink this car thing. But America said, no, let's double down on it.

These are all political choices that we've made, which is good because political choices can undo some of these decisions as well. What do you say to people who argue that all of this talk about public transit and increasing bike lanes is ableist? Yeah.

That comes up a lot. And I wouldn't want to take away from the people who truly are car-dependent through-- not through choice, but because they are physically unable to ride a bike. But I think social media and a lot of these discussions tend to just-- it's either like the fit guy on the bike, and the person who has no physical ability to do anything else other than be driven or drive.

And there's a lot of physical disabilities that aren't visibly manifest. Cycling infrastructure can be used by people with disabilities in mobility scooters, for example, in electric wheelchairs. If you build the right infrastructure, you can open up your streets to more people.

We tend to focus on ableism and fitness because a lot of the infrastructure that we're building still requires a certain level of confidence and fitness that not everybody is privileged enough to have. And if you go to the Netherlands-- like we joke on the podcast, but somehow it always gets tied back to Amsterdam or Copenhagen-- you will see lots of seniors. And, in fact, I think the statistic is something like the senior citizens-- people over the age of, let's say, I think, 65-- make up one of the largest groups of cyclists in the Netherlands because the infrastructure is safe.

And that's the exact opposite of what you see here here. Here, it's young, fit, usually white men. And so if you build the infrastructure, you open up cycling to the types of people who internet commenters, or even well-meaning people with questions will say, it's not for people other than the fit.

It's ableist. And like I said, I think you need to be sensitive to that when you're building cycling infrastructure. Too many cities do a horrible job of listening and centering people with disabilities in their infrastructure choices.

I mean, just try navigating the subway-- Or the sidewalks in a lot of places. Right. Right.

Exactly. Many of our sidewalks still don't have curb ramps, and our subway stations don't have elevators. But those are examples, well, if you change the infrastructure, then things change and open up in ways you never could have imagined.

And the same is true with bike infrastructure, for sure. And as a last note on that, I would also say-- and this is something that comes up a lot when it comes to economic questions, and I mean, really any question that is ultimately about policy, which so much of what we're talking about is-- is that ultimately, policy is always going to be imperfect. And it's never going to serve everyone equally.

But when we're thinking about averages, and what is beneficial to the most people and is most helpful-- and we're speaking specifically in terms of health, mental, and physical-- it is absolutely inarguable that a heavier reliance on walking, bicycling, and public transit for Americans would be a huge improvement in terms of American health. And I really think actually to bring it back to not just bikes, he has a great video about how awesome it is to drive in the Netherlands. Because the only people who are on the road generally are the people who need to drive for that trip.

And that right now in America, if you are physically able, you are not going to ride a bike to go get your milk because it's dangerous. But if you made it so that those who are physically able to take other means, something other than a car, if you make it safe enough for them to do it, that opens up space for the people who need to drive. And you can go to neighborhoods in the Netherlands, and there are no cars parked on the street except for the cars with like the disability placard, and that's it.

And so when you build a city that's better for walking and cycling-- it's sort of counterintuitive-- but it actually can become a better city for people who absolutely need to drive. Well said. Well said.

And it reduces the mental health load of having to sit in traffic on a daily basis, which is a huge issue for America. That's like another hour-long discussion. Totally.

But it literally lowers people's life spans. That's not even an exaggeration. Which is better environmentally-- living rurally and sustaining yourself with gardening, but needing a car?

Or living in a city but not needing a car? We need a carbon footprint calculator. Yeah.

I mean, I don't know like those specific examples. I can say that living in the city car-free-- like, New Yorkers have a lower carbon footprint than our suburban counterparts. Because I live in 1,000 square feet.

And what it takes to heat or cool my apartment is less than what it takes to heat or cool a five-bedroom McMansion. And we don't have a car. If I lived in the city, my wife would probably-- if I lived in the suburbs, my wife would probably have to have a car.

I would have to have a car. And then when my daughter reaches age 16, depending on where we're all going during the day, maybe she'd have to have a car. So by virtue of living in the city, you have a lower carbon footprint.

That doesn't mean there aren't people in cities, like fabulously wealthy people with giant homes and vacation homes outside of the city who don't have a massive carbon footprint. But if we're talking averages, then yeah, city living is better. I don't think we need to choose between the rural cabin in the woods, where you're living off the land and you're completely off the grid, and a 42-story apartment building in New York.

There are lots of places with-- Somerville, Massachusetts, with great density and great transit. And maybe you also have a little backyard and a garden, too. Or Philadelphia.

Right. Places like that-- Saint Louis, Chicago suburbs, like I was mentioning. So we don't have to-- it's not so either/or.

Often, what keeps us in this weird lockstep is getting super hyper, nit-picky about individual choices. Because ultimately, a, as we've discussed on the channel before many times, the environmental problems that we're talking about, the issues are structural. They're policy-driven.

They're related to corporate regulation and decision-making and all these things. That's not to say you should totally abdicate personal responsibility. But getting in the weeds about your various, sort of meticulous personal choices, I think, is kind of missing the forest for the trees.

And also, really letting off the hook what are ultimately the responsibility-bearers, which are, in most cases, things like politicians. Yeah. And look, every individual case is different.

Like, that person might live in a rural area because that's where they grew up and their family is there. And they're not about to pick up and lose their whole social network and their family connections just because they think it's greener to live in Manhattan. And yeah, you know, what I would say is whether I ride a bike or is not going to make any whit of difference in terms of whether we survive climate change or not.

But whether I advocate for bike lanes in my neighborhood, or at least don't stand in the way of them, that can make a difference. If we can get more people doing the things that are necessary, the lifestyle changes that are necessary to deal with climate change-- getting more people on bikes, for example-- great. But if you have personal circumstances that mean you have to fly, you have to drive, whatever it is, you should not be wracked with guilt over such things.

I would agree. And we have some questions here about-- that I'll just kind of blend together, but about the American culture of individualism being a huge driver. And this was, again, referenced in that cursed article as a good thing.

The American culture of hyper-individualism, and sort of moving towards your own little mini domain, your own castle, essentially, on your own plot of land with your own cars and all of that, as being the paradigm that we're moving toward. Now, you're someone who has multiple children, who's chosen to still live in an apartment in a big city. And that's often the sort of inflection point at which a lot of people choose single-family homes.

They choose cars. They choose all of these things. Can you talk a little bit about your own experience and advice for moving away from that individualism, even when you're doing things like having a family?

Yeah. I mean, look-- and there's no one-size-fits-all solution to any of this. And we've been lucky to live in a place with like decent schools and safe streets and things like that.

And if we lived in a different place, or if our economic circumstances were different, we might have had to make a different choice. But this notion of freedom-- well, the notion that people-- I guess I'll roll it back and say this. Lots of people for years would say, oh, when your kids-- when you have kids, you're going to move to the suburbs.

And then we didn't move to the suburbs when we had kids. Oh, when your daughter is a teenager, you'll move to the suburbs. Well, she's 12.

She'll be 13 this fall. Like, we're not moving anywhere. I think everything in life involves trade-offs.

If we lived in the suburbs, like I said, we'd have to have multiple cars. I'd have to mow the lawn every weekend or pay someone to do that-- all of these things that I don't have to worry about now. And yeah, I have not a lot of space.

But, like I said, my daughter can just go out when she wants, and we can do whatever we want around the neighborhood. To each their own, I think. If you want the big house in the suburbs, great.

When we talk about individualism and freedom and things like that, I think we see this a lot with-- we've talked on the podcast about the similarities between gun culture and car culture, that in America, there's this idea that you have a freedom to carry a gun wherever you want, that you have a freedom to drive as big a car as you want, wherever you want, whenever you want. Well, I think we should also have a freedom from such things. Like, we should have a freedom from the fear of going to the grocery store and thinking someone could walk in here at any time and start shooting.

And I know that sounds extreme. But we should have the freedom from crossing the street and thinking at any moment someone could barrel around this corner and just knock me over with their SUV and kill me. And I think there's a lot of freedom when you do not own a car.

My sister-in-law, who I love dearly-- they live in the suburbs of Milwaukee-- she and my brother-in-law, they were chauffeurs for their children up until both kids turned 16. I've never had to do that. I've never had to be the chauffeur for my kid.

And the amount of freedom that I have as a parent, I can't put a price tag on that, where I'm saving time and saving money and not having to be behind the wheel of a car all the time. So, again, I know I'm rambling. But notions of individual freedom-- really, we have to ask what kind of freedom are we talking about?

A freedom to do whatever we want? Or freedom from the consequences of everybody else doing whatever they want? And I like to live in a society where people feel that freedom from fear, that freedom to live their lives as like outwardly expressively as they want and feel safe doing it.

And I think city living, and some forms of small town living, allow for that. It doesn't really allow for that if everybody's in a car kind of fending for themselves. I think that's really true.

And it's also-- one of the things that I think people have a hard time imagining, especially as they have families-- and again, I get it all the time too with my husband and I living in a two-bedroom apartment-- is the inability to imagine living in such small spaces. And as I mentioned in the intro, houses and cars, by the way are becoming bigger and bigger. I mean, I'm sure you guys might have seen the photos now of some of these new pickup trucks out, where you can't even see a eight-year-old child standing in front of the car because they're so tall-- the bed of the truck.

But houses are getting larger and larger, too. And increasingly, we're having fewer children, so we're using fewer of the rooms. And we're having more and more and more rooms and closets and attics and finished basements that are full of things and space and resources that we're not using.

And I do think it's also an interesting shift, especially from someone who does have two children and has had them for some time now, to sort of imagine a version of that in an American culture that's so heavily predicated on consumerism, to make a choice where you literally just can't consume that much. Yeah. We have a rule in our house like anything comes in, something goes out.

And I mean, it's not really a rule, but it's sort of like a general philosophy. Look, I mean, like, I know I'm not in a therapist's office, but we are sitting on two separate couches. But I grew up in a suburb, and we had a huge house with rooms we didn't use, with an attic full of stuff that-- the stuff we didn't use went into.

And when my parents had to sell the house, there was a lot of talk of, like, well, do we get rid of this? Do we get rid of that? That was hard.

And a lot of it was stuff that I didn't really feel any sentimental attachment to at all. But yet, I had to waste all of this mental energy thinking, where's it going? My parents had to deal with it.

Yeah. We have to be very judicious about what we consume, and what we bring into the house. I don't have two couches.

I've got the one couch from IKEA because it's front and center in our living room. And we don't have the rec room and the finished basement where I would need all this other stuff. So yeah, city living is expensive.

But then there's a lot I don't have to buy to make it work living here. So yeah. I bet on the average, especially-- we'd have to the math.

But I bet it washes out for a lot of people. Yeah. I mean, I think housing prices now, for anyone just getting moving to the city, like, any city these days is outrageous.

But-- Well, the suburbs are, too. Right. And the suburbs now are, too.

But in terms of what we've actually had to do to furnish our home and make it livable and make it work, like, yeah, we don't have to spend that much money. And then I don't have an attic full of stuff to actually have to think about getting rid of it. When you talk about the origins of these things, it is really interesting how much we take for granted that these things were not always the norm.

And I think for Americans, in particular, car culture has become so anchored in how we think of America and what we aspire to in America that, at least for me, anyway, it's kind of difficult to imagine America without cars. Like, I just really don't think that that's easy to think about. But I also think that for-- the way that cars have become aspirational-- and this is something that-- we're all based in New York at TFD.

So we have a tendency to forget. Because most people here-- I don't-- I basically don't know anyone who owns a car at this point. But for a huge portion of the country, a car is a status symbol.

A car is-- and having multiple cars. And sometimes you park your car in front of your house so people can see it. And from a financial perspective, what's so compelling about that is it's almost literally the worst investment a person can make is a new car.

There are some exceptions to that. You can have collector cars, and a few things here and there that will appreciate. But for the vast majority of cars that people are purchasing, especially, again, if they're new, all they're doing is costing you money and depreciating in value.

Yet, they are still sought after so sort of vigorously as this aspirational tool. And I'm just kind of curious how you think that we got here-- that it's not just a necessity, but it's kind of a status symbol for people. Well, I think sort of like I said before, there's the political side of it.

There's the cultural side of it. We did an episode on the phrase "America's love affair with the car," which is the thing that rolls off the tongue of news anchors, of just people in general. And that was a creation of motor companies.

And it was actually sort of an infomercial with Groucho Marks. And it was pushed as this-- America has this love affair with cars. So there's a huge cultural component.

You think about cars in movies, and all the special cars in film that you can think of off the top of your head, like the Ghostbusters car, or KITT from Knight Rider, or the Back to the Future car, that cars have this really important place in our cultural story. They're the backbone of industry for a lot of this country-- for Detroit, for the Midwest. The middle class and unions are sort of built on the auto industry.

And so it has this stranglehold on our country, on our ideology, on our just general sense of self. And you're right. Yeah, they are a huge status symbol because I think-- it's funny.

I worked in television. And when I was first starting out, I had a choice, like moved to New York, or moved to Los Angeles. And I knew I wanted to come to New York for a lot of reasons.

But one of them was I wouldn't have to buy a car. And my friends were like, no, you should come to LA. It's so much cheaper.

You can get an apartment for so much cheaper. And then I remember saying to a friend, well, how much are you spending every month on your car? And how much he was spending every month on his car was the difference in rent between LA and New York.

And because he was buying more car than he needed because it was a status symbol. It was how he presented himself when he arrived at a restaurant, or arrived at work. And New Yorkers-- how do we present ourselves?

I'm not the best example of this, but we present ourselves with fashion or certain other aspects of our personalities. We don't need to make this big splash with our cars. And that's sort of how cars become a status symbol.

When you are isolated from other people, it's the first impression you make. No wonder people invest so much in their cars. That's separate from it being the cost of admission into society.

Well, that's true. And listen, I'm going to choose my words really carefully about Los Angeles because I don't want any of these-- Oh, I love LA. I love going there.

I'm just thankful that I don't have to deal with the daily driving. Well, listen. I love a lot of people in LA, I'll say that.

But I have a lot of my-- some of my best friends live in LA. But you know what's interesting about LA as an example of an American city-- now, Los Angeles is a pretty unique one because it was built so heavily on the film industry. And so from day one, sort of built as a car-centric sort of concept, the way that a lot of it is currently mapped out.

Although-- sorry to interrupt-- like, it was trolleys, right? It was streetcars. And part of the sprawl in LA comes from the fact that streetcars could kind of take you out to all these different places, and then development would grow up around that.

When the streetcars go away, now you have to drive between those, and if you're-- so it's-- Well, driving-- first of all, you're right. But also, we can say it was never a walkable city. Yeah.

Yeah. Like, unlike most East Coast cities where they were built back when people were on foot or on horse, essentially, or I guess on penny farthings at some point, there is just really not-- it was never intended to be a city you walk around. But it is interesting to see sort of the unique nexus in American life, that I think there are probably fairly few cities in most of the world-- there are probably-- there are others.

But it's rare to find a city that large, that dense, and highly populated-- it's like 9 million people-- where everyone owns a car. And you have to drive 45 minutes almost everywhere. Because I think for most people, what they would seek out in an urban environment is not having to do that.

But it's like we just don't even think in those terms. Yeah. And it's funny, because I lived in Atlanta for two years after college.

And my commute to work would take me 20 minutes, or it would take me an hour and a half. And I was just-- Interesting. Oh, just traffic.

Traffic, right? Or if-- I remember one time it snowed like this much, and it just shut the whole city down. And little things like that could really upend your day.

And I hated it because I had a taste of what it was like to live in New York, or go into Boston. And so as soon as I could get out of Atlanta-- no offense to Atlanta, because I liked a lot about it. Like, I love the food.

I love the culture, the people. It's a really vibrant city, but the driving just drove me crazy. And it's hard to get people to see that piece of it because cars are just all around us.

It's what we're used to. Everybody is born into it. So like we've been saying, unlearning that is part of the process here.

It's also-- I mean, for what it's worth in these big cities, like Atlanta is another actually excellent example of a city where you have so much of a metropolitan experience, but you do have to drive everywhere. But I think to take it back to that God-awful article that Ross Douthat put out in the New York Times today, that's basically-- you guys, I'll link it. But it's basically America's ethos is like driving, and that's the ultimate way to see it.

And that's-- adults drive, and that's just the way it is. And it's so unbelievable to have a weird conservative backward take on that. But suffice to say, like, his example was taking a road trip with his family.

And what's interesting about it is that, yes, I think most people, even myself and my husband, who don't like cars, don't drive for the most part, we like a road trip every now and again. I love a road trip. Yeah.

I love to go camping every summer. I've taken a cross-country trip. It's great.

It's really fun. It's great. But as people pointed out in the comments, I think, really astutely is that on a day-to-day level, even people who own multiple cars mostly hate the car experience, like the parking, the moving the cars, the valet, the commuting, the traffic.

But yet, I feel like in most areas outside of places like New York, there's just not a ton of political agitation to find better ways of doing it. It's such a gargantuan task in much of the country. I mean, we're here in New York, where just like a few little policy tweaks can make things safer and get more people on bikes.

Like, there didn't used to be bike lanes on 8th Avenue and 9th Avenue not far from here, and now there are. And that enables people like yourself to go out and get on a bike who might not have before. In the suburbs, it's a bigger task.

Because if you don't have density, and you don't have that critical mass of people who are agitating, like you said, for better transit, safer streets, or even just sidewalks, it can be much harder. A lot of our listeners are in small towns. And we get emails from people who say, I always thought I was the weirdo in my town.

I found my people. Thank you for the podcast. But that's what a lot of people are up against.

They don't have this built in density that can lobby for change together. Do you give recommendations on your podcast for people who do live in fairly car-centric areas of small ways in their day-to-day life that they can become less dependent on cars? Yeah.

I mean, you mentioned that you got an e-bike. E-bikes are a real game-changer if you live-- they're great in cities. But I really think the biggest potential is in suburbs and rural areas where they flatten hills.

You don't get sweaty. If you can find those kind of quiet roads or off-street paths, that can really change everything for you. So I think getting an e-bike and replacing-- A lot of people think, oh, you guys want to ban cars.

You don't get how most Americans live. It's like, no. What we're saying is that cars have their place, and they have their place in cities to a certain extent for the people who really need them.

They have their place in the suburbs and rural areas for people who are entirely dependent on them. But if you can replace a handful of trips. Like, oh, I'm out of milk.

Well, the grocery store is like a mile away. What if I bike there instead today, and you replace just one trip a week, two trips a week, you start to see that adding up in terms of savings of gas. Maybe you feel a little better because you're getting a little bit of exercise.

So I think if you live in those small places, that's a really great individualistic way to have fewer-- I don't know-- less exposure to cars in your life. So I want to take a quick pause here and once again thank today's episode sponsor, Avast. As a digital-first media company, digital safety is extremely important to us.

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Learn more about Avast One at avast.com. And now let's get back to our chat. You know, it's funny that you say that you save on things like gas, and possibly not needing to go to the gym because you're getting a workout kind of organically.

But you also totally save on how much stuff you can buy. Because that is one, I think, underrated aspect of why cars are so intrinsic to the American experiences, because they're the perfect vessel for consuming. Like, you can fit so many groceries in a car.

You can like-- it's always so funny when I talk to a friend who lives in the suburbs who's like, yeah, I'm just going to go to IKEA and pick up a dresser or a desk. I'm like, what? On your back?

Like, how are you going to get it home? Well, they put it in the back of their car. And in many cases, they own these big SUVs where you could buy out an entire living room's worth of furniture and strap it on there.

And I just-- that, to me, I think, is another way to rethink it is not just spending less on the actual transport, but not just being able to come home with a trunk full of crap every time you drive. Yeah. And, you know, Americans waste a tremendous amount of food.

Like, we throw out a lot of fresh vegetables. Because I think people make that suburban shopping trip, and they buy the broccoli and the spinach and the apples. And then they get to the end of the week and they realize, oh, I've purchased much more than I needed to, and now it's gone bad.

When you live in the city, and you live-- you don't even have to live in a city like Manhattan. But when you have a corner market, and you can just get what you need to make dinner that night, and then tomorrow get what you need to make lunch or whatever, you spend less. You waste less.

I joke when I do my grocery shopping by bike, it's like a game of Tetris. I have to sort of figure out where everything's going to fit. So I have less room for the impulse purchase of the pint of ice cream that I probably want to get.

And that saves me some money in the long run. Do you guys talk about the intersection of cars, and specifically, sort of the American suburb? We do.

I mean, we've talked to lots of people about-- we have lots of listeners in suburbs. And just-- the suburbs don't exist without cars. The cars don't exist without the suburbs.

And I also think it's important for us to define what we mean by suburbs. Because there are suburbs right around here. A lot of the suburbs in Westchester or-- I'm from Boston-- Brookline, Massachusetts-- the sort of streetcar suburbs that grew out of a time when people did really come into the city for work, and then take a train or streetcar home.

And those are types of suburbs that are great. You can walk around them. You don't need-- your kids can walk to school.

You don't need a car for every last trip. I'm thinking of some of the Chicago suburbs are a good example. But then there's the sprawly Atlanta exurb suburbs, where garages are front and center on properties.

Parking lots are huge. There are strip malls. And you do need a car for every last trip.

And so yeah, we do talk about those places and what it can take-- what it could take to fix them. Yeah. I want to-- again, similar to Los Angeles, I want to be sensitive.

Because for what it's worth-- I mean, listen, I live in a two-bedroom apartment. I'm sure many people listening are like, I could never. And rightfully so.

It takes all kinds. But I think it's really important that you make the distinction between the type of natural outgrowths of metropolitan areas that have existed basically as long as America has existed-- some of these suburbs. And I think it's almost kind of like you say a misnomer to categorize them in the same way as you do a lot of these planned developments where there is literally nothing that can be done without a car.

Although, I guess with an e-bike, maybe sometimes now. But the other issue is that a lot of times they're completely separated from any kind of central area without going through an eight-lane thoroughfare, essentially. Can you talk a little bit about the development-- I think we've all seen the pictures of like those streets where it's just like Exxon, Burger King, whatever, whatever, that are really kind of not just an essential-- it's like a uniquely American thing.

But it's also like an essential component of these exurbs that we're talking about. Can you talk about how those kind of even came to be? There's a really great writer, former planner, Chuck Marohn, who runs a site and a group called Strong Towns that's worth checking out.

And he calls it-- the type of road that you're talking about-- a strode. It's not a street. It's not a road.

It has the function of a highway, but it serves a more local purpose. And it does neither one of those things well. It's meant for the fast movement of traffic, but it gets carved up by driveways for entrances to strip malls and things like that.

And so it becomes a nightmare to drive because you have to be on alert at all times. Nobody likes walking there. If they have the choice, they're not going to walk there.

And so much of American development is predicated on running these strodes-- yeah-- these three, four, six-lane highways through just like residential areas. And they don't serve people who want to take the bus, who need to take the bus. And they're just unpleasant places to be.

And you're only going to these places if you have a reason for going. It's like, well, I know I need to go to that nail salon, or that hardware store, or that big box store, then you'll go. They don't facilitate the sort of like lovely small town or urban just wandering-- I need to go to the nail salon.

Oh, there's the wine store. I'm going to go pick up some wine. That's a much nicer way of being.

And look, to each their own. If you love being in your car, great. If you love your big house, great.

There were certainly times, sort of like you're alluding to, during the pandemic when I wish I had more than 1,000 square feet and two kids. That's huge. Oh, you have two kids.

Two kids. yeah. But my daughter could like go across the street and go to the park and meet up with her friends, and I didn't have to drive her there. And she walks to school.

And my son could walk to the corner and get some ice cream if he wanted to. So that's a different sort of-- I'm rambling, and I'm far away from your strode question. But yeah.

So it's sort of like I was saying before. The original sort of early American suburb is great. It's a really pleasant place to be.

And you can have mixed use development with apartments. And then behind that you can have multifamily homes. And then behind that you can have single-family homes, and it's all walkable.

But we have built, like you were saying, a place where it's all just these giant single-family homes separated by yards. And there's no cohesive street network that's easy for a nine-year-old kid to walk to school by herself. Nothing is cooler to me, or more intimidating, than lifelong New York City kids who are just like 12 on the subway, just like, I'm just going to the movies, and I'm going to go meet up with my friend.

I'm like, you are so cool. You were mentioning that terrible column. And Ross is talking about the sense of freedom he had, an independence he had, when he got his driver's license at, I'm assuming, age 16.

My daughter started walking to school alone when she was 10. And that's a real freedom. And she was able to get on the bus and, like I said, go meet a friend across the street at the park.

That's freedom-- freedom to not ever have to worry, where am I going to park? Am I going to get injured on my way? If I'm my 20s and I'm drunk, how am I getting home tonight, things like that.

That's to me a real freedom. Yeah. Yeah.

It's also-- I mean, the thing about it that you're talking about-- like you mentioned you can be walking to one thing and kind of do-- oh, well, maybe I'll do this. And that is its own trap door to consumerism. Let's be clear.

And not that I have not fallen victim to it. But there is also a sense of even with my bike that has a basket on it, or if you're walking somewhere, there's a real limit to not just what you can take back, but also kind of what's important for you to do because it takes a lot of energy. And in some cases if you're walking, time to do things.

And I do think there's also a really sort of-- it's almost too easy to do a bunch of different things that you don't necessarily need or want to do when you have a car. Like, when I had a car it used to be like, well, I'll go to Target. And I'll go to get some fast food, which I-- that is one thing I really miss from a car is eating fast food alone in my car.

That was like the one positive. That's what the road trips are good for, I got to admit. Yeah.

Yes. Although, you're never alone on those. I want to have a good, sad, sad, like, Chick-fil-A meal in the rain in the silence in my car listening to a podcast.

But outside of that, though, there is just really, I think, a very-- and, again, I think this ties into a lot of consumerism, is that it's not only easy to bring a lot of things back, but it's also very, very easy to do way more than you necessarily need to do because you exert no physical energy to do it. Yeah. I mean-- and especially in America, where you do, if you're walking or biking, sometimes have to think, well, if I go this way, is it dangerous?

And if I go this way, is it safer? You do have to put some mental energy into trip planning when you don't have a car, in a way if you drive and you live in the suburbs, you assume that grocery store has parking and I can park there. But I actually kind of joke and say that one of the reasons I love living in the city, and I love walking and biking, is because I'm really lazy.

Even though it takes effort and energy to do these things, I don't want to have to think to myself, oh, I got to leave early to get there because what if the traffic's bad, and where am I going to park? Like, when I'm on my bike, and Google Maps tells me it takes 23 minutes to get to where I'm going, it takes 23 minutes. When I need to walk somewhere, and it says it's going to take 8 minutes, it takes 8 minutes.

But when you're in your car, it can take 23 minutes, or it can take an hour. And then you have to worry about parking. And then you have to worry about when you come back, will there be parking, especially in the city, like on my block or something like that.

So I like to do these things and live this way because I don't really want to exhaust any mental energy into how I get around and what I'm doing. And I can just go out and do it, and then come back. There's also the-- we talk about money saving, but time is money.

I never had to worry about, am I getting home in time to relieve the babysitter, or pick up the kid at daycare? And if I'm late, I'm going to get charged more. Like, when I was on my bike, I was always at the door to daycare at 5:59 PM-- always.

And so that kind of savings saves you money, but it also just saves you a lot of peace of mind, I think. It's really a much less stressful way to live. Also, as it pertains to cycling, New York is so far behind other places even in America.

Like, I don't know-- I'm sure you know about this. But I think it's Boulder that's doing a e-bike program, where they're like-- Yeah. Denver is doing an e-bike, too.

Denver, yeah. Boulder might have one, too. But yeah.

But basically, the city is like, we'll essentially reimburse you to get an e-bike, so that everyone has an e-bike. And those kind of things-- and I think it is-- I mean, those are still sizeable cities for sure. But I think it is kind of important for people's mental shifts to be like, OK, it doesn't have to be a New York or a San Francisco to be making these changes.

No. And, you know, you about the stereotypical Norman Rockwell American small town, like Main Street USA, those are really walkable communities. And part of the reason we idolize them is because of the cohesiveness of being able to just walk to the ball field from your house, and the sort of stereotypical-- I don't know-- like, Little Rascals lifestyle of kids running around all over the place.

But that doesn't exist in a lot of American suburbs today. So yeah, it's not about turning every city and every small town into San Francisco or New York, or Chicago, it's like the little tweaks that we could make to just make it so that it's easier if you want to not have a car. Another aspect of it that I think gets-- it can often be used as to be a bit shaming, and I think this is where people can be like, OK, well, this is just really smug.

But I think the most sort of exaggerated example that alludes to the incredibly negative health impact that car culture has on America, which it objectively does, is the example of someone driving to a gym to go sit on a stationary bike, which is obviously extreme, although I'm sure it happens millions of times every day around the country. I'm sure that's not unusual. But there is, I think, a really interesting sort of intersection between the three-- the sort of trifecta.

And I'm sure it's not like an act of collusion between the fitness industry and the car industry. But it is really interesting that Americans have become so accustomed on the whole to really getting very little passive exercise throughout their day, and then dedicating specific time and money to get that exercise, which is just not as common in a lot of other places. No.

There's a great video from this guy, Jason Slaughter, who runs a channel called Not Just Bikes, which people should check out. And he has a video about how the city is sort of his gym. And yeah.

And I think the thing is gyms can be really intimidating places. Like, I'm not a big guy, and I feel intimidated going in there. And so depending on your body type, your fitness level, maybe you don't want to join a gym.

Maybe you can't afford it. But movement is really important-- not extreme exercise. You don't have to be running miles every week and biking everywhere, but just movement is really important.

And if you can get that because you take a flight of stairs to get to the subway, because you walk to the corner to get your milk when you need it, that's-- like you said, all this passive exercise. I mean, just my day to day-- I walked to the subway, and then walked from the subway to a doctor's appointment. And then walked to go get lunch, and then walked back to the subway to come up here.

And I'll probably take a Citi Bike home. And I'm not really thinking about that as exercise. I'm thinking I just have to get to my next thing.

And that really has helped me, and I know it helps a lot of other people, just get the necessary movement that they need. I will say on that note-- so two things. So it is very easy to get a lot of steps in New York.

I will say that. But I've been on the 10,000 step a day journey for-- it's been a year now. It's been 15 months now every day.

And a lot of people would be like, this is very hard, in places that are not New York. It's really hard. That is true.

Do not get me wrong-- that is true. However, especially if you even partially work from home, like there are a lot of days when I'm not getting those 10,000 steps outside. It's snowing.

It's pouring rain, like all of that stuff. Even just not sitting down when you work, or even just taking, like you're saying, the much smaller trips that would be very, very easy too. And in the case of New York, we have cars, too.

I catch cabs quite a lot. Yeah, for sure. I think there's just, I think, a mindset shift of needing to sort of retrain your brain to-- just as much as getting away from the cost and logistical aspect of cars, getting away from the idea that movement should be a dedicated time in the day even, again, when you're working.

But similarly, on that note, I will say, switched to an e-bike rather than taking the subway or cars. And I was wondering-- I was like, will this have any impact on my fitness because it is an e-bike? But here's the thing about e-bikes.

You do not have to use them as like mopeds. You can definitely like-- it just helps you a little bit. And I've seen really significant fitness changes from even using an e-bike every day.

So if you're considering using a bike, and you're like, well, I'm not going to get any exercise on an e-bike, yes, you do. And you can also choose how much assistance you're getting. Yeah.

And also there's all these great studies that show that people who use e-bikes-- there's this stereotype-- oh, e-bikes are for lazy people. No, they get people on bikes who might not otherwise be on a bike in the first place. They get people out of cars.

So that is like you're automatically getting a little more exercise by not driving. And they also find that people who use e-bikes tend to go farther-- Oh, yeah. --right? Because there's just-- you don't have to think about it as much.

You don't sweat as much. And so the kind of net result is that a lot of people who use e-bikes are getting the same amount of exercise, if not more, than people who otherwise would be on, quote unquote, "regular bikes." So it's great. That is absolutely true.

That is absolutely true. And also, I will say, for people who are considering it-- and I do want to just talk quickly about getting over the hump of being into biking because I think even a lot of people who live in areas where it would be possible, like myself up until a year ago, have quite a lot of hesitations about it. So I want to talk about getting into it.

But yesterday was 100 degrees almost. I biked to the dentist, and then biked to work, and then biked home. And I was never that sweaty the entire time.

It's 100 degrees. I used to bike to work when going into an office was such a thing. And I remember showing up in the lobby of my office building, and I had biked there on a Citi Bike.

And my coworker was just drenched with sweat. And I looked at him and I said, you took the subway, right? Because he was waiting on the subway platform.

Those platforms. Yeah. They're terrible.

And biking-- I was able to choose how fast I could go. There's a nice little breeze on the bridge. And you just kind of blot yourself off with a handkerchief or something, and I was good to go.

Yeah. That part of it is kind of-- I get that that's sometimes people's fear, that they're going to sweat too much. But no.

E-bikes, especially, eliminate that. It's amazing. Like, I totally agree.

I sweat more when I take the subway. So for people who are interested in-- so let's say they live in an area where maybe they have a car. It's not New York-level hostile to car ownership-- and they could be biking more, but they're just like nervous, scared to.

Aside from e-bikes, are there other good things to know? Yeah. I mean, I think the best advice I have for anybody who-- and I get these kind of messages all the time.

I'm thinking of biking. What should I do? Find a friend who rides a bike even casually and say, could you go out with me?

Like, I'm thinking of riding to work. And if you are thinking of riding to work, have that friend on a weekend simulate your bike commute, so that you don't have to do it at the most-- at the busiest time of day when there's going to be lots of traffic out there. You don't have to worry about maybe showing up sweaty to work or anything like that.

You can just see how it feels. Even in a really busy place like New York, there are really calm, easy places to ride. So pick out those places.

But yeah. My number one advice is like grab a friend. I'm sure these days everybody knows somebody who bikes.

And if there's anything about bike people it's they're super enthusiastic, almost evangelicals for the cause. And they're really willing to help out someone who wants to join up. Some of them are [BLEEP]-holes,-holes, I must be clear.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Some of them are-- But not your friends-- not your friends. Not your friends. Also, like-- OK.

Anyone who's judgmental about e-bikes, they're out. They're just like-- they're not even a comrade. You're not part of the cause.

You're not part of the anti-car cause. Well, there's a lot of gatekeeping in any subculture. And definitely in bike culture, it has its subcultures, and that sort of like, oh, e-bikes not really-- it's not really riding a bike.

That's its own form of-- usually comes from, like, white dudes. But it's its own form of gatekeeping. We don't need it. 1,000%.

Also, for what it's worth-- again, I have an e-bike. There are days where I don't turn on anything, and I just get the full workout. And by the way, those bikes are way heavier than a lot of bikes, so they're actually more work to pedal than a much lighter bike when you turn off all the assistance, especially if you're carrying stuff.

But I will say a lot of people-- and this was myself previously-- when I thought about cycling in urban or even suburban environments, I was thinking of like a bike messenger. I was thinking of like-- and if you go on YouTube, and you look at some of cycling through New York City, those people have a death wish. Because a lot of it becomes about showing off.

It becomes about doing really, really high-risk things, getting-- cutting as many corners as possible to get where you're going. And that is not, I think, for the vast majority of day-to-day commuters the experience of cycling in an urban environment. No.

Like, if you want to see the most diverse group of cyclists in New York City, my recommendation is to go stand outside of Grand Central by the big Citi Bike stations that are there. And you'll see all types of people from all different types of backgrounds, all different ages getting out of the trains, and coming and picking up a bike to go for that last little leg of their trip to their office. And yeah.

So I think the online culture of cycling-- the people who are getting off the train at Grand Central are not posting their epic rides to YouTube. No, they're not. Also, I would say-- it's not what I do necessarily, but especially if you're a commuter who's looking to replace part of your commute-- those Bird scooters, I think, are a really good option.

Yeah. E-scooters are great. I was also-- yeah, I was going to say, bike share exists in lots of places, even small cities.

And so if you're thinking, I don't know if I want to get an e-bike. It's a big financial investment. It still, even with rebates, can cost a lot of money down, just get a day pass or a weekend pass for an e-bike system, borrow a friend's pass if that's possible, and just go try it out.

Totally. Also, fun fact. Depending on where you live, a lot of e-bike shops will let you try them.

Like you can rent the one you're considering buying. It's not going to be the exact same one. Like, you're renting a different one of the model.

But you can go try it out for a week. See if you like it, which I think a lot of people really don't consider. And, again, I want to stress that up until a year ago I was one of those people who didn't consider these options.

And I would also say as a last note in terms of rethinking it, I think one of the things that is an underrated kind of not just benefit, but also mindset shift in moving around the city as a cyclist, is that you-- in many ways, I feel like I know everything about New York City traffic laws now. In many ways, I feel actually much closer to drivers than I ever did as a pedestrian. Because you really do become aware of not just the cars around you, but also, the massive difference little infrastructural changes can make in an experience, you know?

Yeah. I think biking is a-- I love biking in the city. As much as people sometimes complain, and that's what Twitter is for, I love biking the city.

You get to know the city in such a granular way, even in ways you might not get to know by walking. You know that little bump in the pavement on every block that is on your commute to work. You know it until the city comes back and fixes.

You know the timing of the lights. I should slow down here because I'm never going to make that light. You are able to see stores that maybe you would just zip by in a car, or just pass by underground and never have a chance to see.

So cycling, for all of its stresses, and as long-- and far as we have to go in the United States to make it the kind of thing where regular folks are just comfortable doing it every day, it's still such a joyous, great thing. I mean, the pandemic is a really good example. People who drove to work were really happy working at home because they were like, great I don't ever have to get in a car and sit and commute again.

People who bike to work or walk to work generally had much higher dissatisfaction with working from home. So yeah, I miss that. And I think, yeah, if there's one thing to take away it's fun.

It really is fun. It is so fun. And so you don't have to get into biking, you just have to get on a bike, and you'll have fun.

I totally agree. Man, I'm like a little kid now. Any time there's an errand I'm like, I'll do it.

It will take me 10 minutes on my bike. Yeah. I love picking up my kids in a way that I don't think I would if I had to drive there.

Yeah. Are you a bike stroller dad? I have a big Dutch bike made by Workcycles in Amsterdam.

And it carries three children. I have two. And we would go everywhere on that.

I mean-- It's one of the wagon ones? No. It's just-- it's kind of like a long bike.

It has a seat in front for my youngest, and a seat in the back-- over the back wheel. And I loved it. It opened up the city to us in ways-- I call it a yes machine.

Because, oh, a birthday party in another side of town? Like, I have to schlep the stroller on the bus, to the subway, or rent a car to get somewhere. Nope.

Just hop on the bike, and we go, and we're there. So yeah. That is amazing.

It's fun. Also, this is a really niche one. But for me, anyway, when I go meet people on the bike for like a meal or something, at least-- some people do.

I would not. I can't drink. So that's in New York City $15 saved on a glass of wine because I'm certainly not buying one and hopping on my bike.

That's what bike share is for. You bike there, you drink, and then you can get home in the safest way possible. Look at that.

I'm like a little stressed about Citi Bikes, only because the quality varies so much in the bike you're going to get. But now that I'm much more comfortable with the actual-- like, I know the city. I know where I'm going.

I feel like, all right. Now I can do that. But now you've just eliminated that savings.

But so-- OK. So you mentioned Amsterdam. And one thing I think, before we hop into the questions from our audience, is the extent to which people I think look at transport and infrastructure and all of these things-- walkability, et cetera, as being innate, or that's just the way that culture is.

And we talk about how-- we talked about how America sort of became a car culture. But similarly, you mentioned Amsterdam. Like 30, 40, 50 years ago, Amsterdam was full of streets with cars.

Like, this was a very, very sort of concerted effort to move it away from being a car-centric city into being what is now known as probably the biggest bike city in the world. Could you talk a little bit about that process? Yeah.

There's another great set of people that your listeners and viewers should be following-- that's Chris and Melissa Bruntlett. They have a bunch of-- two really good books on how the Dutch built a lot of their cycling cities, and the benefits of car-free streets and car-free cities. Yeah.

Amsterdam was-- and I've been in many times-- in the '60s and the '70s, it was really car-centric. Lots of it streets looked like any street in New York-- lined with cars, with lots of traffic. And there were plans to demolish much of the center city for highways to expedite vehicle flow through the city.

And that was pushed back on by a lot of people. There were some really great elected officials who pushed back on it. But there was a concerted effort in the '70s by what was called the Stop de Kindermoord movement, which is literally, Stop the Child Murder.

Because there were so many children being killed by cars in the city. And it's a huge problem in all of the US. But there was a real concerted effort to push back, and there were protests.

And to bring it back to sort of where we started, this was a political process as much as any other that turned Amsterdam into what it is today. And yeah. It took 30, 40 years for us to get these smiling pictures of Dutch people riding through the rain with their kids on the back of a bike or whatever.

But it was never preordained. And there isn't anything-- to your point-- that's innate in Dutch culture or the Dutch person that-- there's nothing in their DNA that leads to cycling. You could say the same about the Danish in Copenhagen, which is another kind of cycling mecca.

These were policy choices that have made cycling, along with transit use, kind of the default. And that driving is harder. It costs more.

They put a lot of fees on buying a car. It's harder to park a car. You can't park a car for free in most places in these cities.

And when you do all of that, the bike just becomes this thing that's in the back of your head of like, oh, I'll go to the grocery store on the bike. You don't really think about it. And yeah, I highly recommend if people have the ability to go there, or even just look online, to look at the history of what it took to get Amsterdam to where it is.

Because, like I said, it wasn't preordained. It took a lot of effort-- the kind of effort we're seeing in American cities now. And, again, not just in massive metropolises like New York.

This can happen anywhere. Well, and I would also say-- people say, oh, but Amsterdam is so flat. And if that were true, Florida would be the cycling Mecca of the United States.

Oh, But the weather really isn't bad. And if that were true, if that was like the one secret ingredient you needed, Los Angeles would be a great place for cycling. But it really has to do with the infrastructure and how you prioritize the safety of people on bikes, on foot, and sort of push cars a little bit to the margins.

Now, if you're disabled, if you're making a critical delivery, you can still drive into the center of Amsterdam. You can still drive into Copenhagen. But if you're able-bodied, and you have other means and other choices, driving is not going to be the thing that you're going to default to.

And that's the key difference. Very well said. And I will say on that note, not only is it, like you say, the flat thing.

Even if it were hilly as hell where you live, which it is. I mean, I live in a extremely-- like, it's a high hill to get to my neighborhood, and it's a breeze on the e-bike. I live in Park Slope.

The slope is there. And with an e-bike, it really makes things a lot easier. Totally.

But also, I mean, one of the things-- I mean, it's just like-- we call them Dutch-style bikes. I ride a Dutch-style bike. And I think a lot of-- part of what makes their culture-- like makes it so adaptable is that Dutch-style bikes are extremely comfortable.

Like, I think a lot of people have a misconception because they're thinking of much more uncomfortable type racing bikes, or God forbid, fixes or whatever, that are really unpleasant to ride for long periods. But a Dutch bike is like-- you could ride that thing for hours and be fine. Yeah.

There are people who call Dutch cyclists upright pedestrians or fast pedestrians. Enough of that. And yeah.

And like, look, this is my cycling outfit most of the time. Like, I have a Dutch bike. I sit up straight.

And I'm a short guy, and I can see over a lot of cars. It's great. It's a much better way to think about cycling.

And yeah, I think the type of bike that a lot of Americans envision leads to that intimidation. It's like the Tour de France bikes. Yeah.

The drop handles or light things, and yeah, you don't need a bike like that. No, you don't. So we have a couple of questions from our audience that I'd love to ask you, or they would love to ask you.

Ooh. How can biking include working class or poor families with heavy transit needs? Yeah.

That's a great question. I mean, it is true that a lot of people think that cycling is this yuppie, elitist thing. But cycling already does include a lot of working people.

I mean, first of all, we have lots of people who make their living on their bikes, especially in places like New York, delivering food and things like that. But sometimes-- oftentimes-- lower income people live in neighborhoods that are historically neglected by cities in terms of the investment in bike infrastructure. So I think as a bike advocate, as a white bike advocate, privileged person, how is my advocacy also going to lift up and include the neighborhoods that need as much bike infrastructure if not more than mine-- that mine already has?

So I think if you bike, really get involved in local politics. Vote for the right people. Get people talking about how we can share the wealth of bike infrastructure to more places, so that the car doesn't become like a default necessity for lower income, working class people.

Yeah. I think that's a hugely important part of it. The political side of this is really big.

Yeah. I would agree. And I would also say, I mean, upfront costs are a real issue.

Although, some bikes are not as expensive upfront. And also, some can be purchased through financing, that some will have a year of 0% APR, things like that. There are options to accessing bikes, especially things like e-bikes, which if you have heavy transit needs, you probably should get an e-bike.

Because if you're commuting longer distances, if you're going to work-- all of these things are good for an e-bike. But even in my case, I have a fairly-- I mean, listen, bikes can be tens of thousands of dollars literally. But my bike was $1,500 plus a few extra little baskets and things like that, which is expensive.

Like, that's not a negligible cost. However, I am already under $1 cost per use, and it's only going down. And it'll probably end up in the pennies.

Because at the end of the day, like we talk about a lot on TFD, we really need to change our mindset whenever possible, again, for upfront costs from how much something costs initially to how much are you spending over time? And theft is also a really big concern for all cyclists, but especially if buying a bike represents a large share of your income, especially with the upfront costs. And so advocating for more secure bike parking is really important.

So maybe someone could bike from their home where they have a secure place to store their bike, to a transit stop where they can just leave their bike, and then take the train the rest of the way, as opposed to thinking like, oh, I should just drive from point A to B. Also, on that note-- and I was recommending this recently to someone who takes the train to New York City, but then has a little bit of a commute left to do once they're in the city-- is a folding bike can be-- Yeah. Folding bikes are great. --a great option.

Or those little scooters. No judgment on those little e-scooters. Man, the other day I saw a full-on businessman in a little suit, with little tie back here and a little backpack, on his Bird scooter.

Just like Amsterdam. Look at that. I felt so European.

OK. Last questions. Why is America so bad at trains?

And why did the Second Avenue subway extension cost so much money? Oh. I mean, I think to the second part of that question might be above my pay grade of like why do infrastructure costs-- like, why are they so high in the United States compared to other countries?

They are absurdly high. Like, Paris is building multiple extensions of their metro for a fraction of the cost as it takes us to build one extension of the 7 train to Hudson Yards or whatever. Why is America so bad at trains?

Because we haven't invested in them. And we've invested all of our trillions and trillions of dollars in highways. And it goes back to notions of individualism and freedom.

But it really just comes down to what we prioritize, and what we have chosen to fund over the years. We think it's freedom, I guess, to have to get in a plane to go even as close as like Portland, Maine, or North Carolina. But a train would be much better, and probably faster in the end.

So a lot of it, it comes down to what we prioritize. And infrastructure, unfortunately, we can only in America see as highways. That's true.

So we have two last quick ones that I want to get to. One is someone asking-- they're anxious about taking public transit. Any tips?

I understand the fear that people have. Because if you turn on the local news, or read some of the tabloid newspapers, there's a lot of focus on crime right now in cities and on public transit. And some of that fear, especially, I would say, if you're Asian-American, is probably justified because there have been an uptick-- there has been an uptick in hate crime, for example.

But I think what public transit needs in order for it to be safe is people taking it-- is lots of people taking it. And I wouldn't judge anybody on an individual level if they do not feel safe taking public transit for whatever reason. What I would say is don't believe everything you see on the local news.

Don't believe everything you see in the tabloids. I just took the subway here from Brooklyn and made a stop in Manhattan. And it was fine.

It was busy. And separating the sort of like sensationalistic stories from the statistics can be hard to do in our simian brains that we have. But I think it's not as bad as people think.

We're in the middle of Manhattan, and it's like-- it's 100 degrees out, but it's perfectly pleasant. People are out and about. It's great.

Totally. Also, on that note, to bring back to cars, people wildly underestimate the danger of riding and driving cars. It's the most dangerous thing that you can do on a daily basis.

It's one of the leading causes of death for children. I'm sure everybody who's watching knows somebody who's been in a serious car crash. I know people who have died.

It's the riskiest thing that you can do. But we don't think of risk in that sense. We think of risk as like the scary person who's going to mug us, and not like the person on their phone texting someone going through an intersection who's going to run us over.

And that's a thing I think we as humans and as Americans are not great at parsing out the real relative risk of different activities. Well, as I knew it would be, it's been a pleasure. Yeah.

This is great. Thank you so much. Where can people go to find out more of what you do?

So we are The War on Cars. So we're available wherever you get your podcasts. And we have a website thewaroncars.org.

And we're also on Twitter @thewaroncars. Thank you. And if you ever want to talk about getting on a bike, tweet me.

I'll talk about it. I'll go for a ride with you if you're in New York. Oh, my gosh.

Yes. We'll both meet up and just bike. We'll be like a mother duckling, and you can follow your little duckling.

All right, guys. Well, we will see you next Monday on an all new episode of The Financial Confessions. Bye. [MUSIC PLAYING]