Friday, 17 May 2013

Change in one generation

From The Space Wasters - The architecture of Australian Misanthropy by Robert Nelson:
You can never let a child pedal a bike on the road because it is lethal. Suburban space disempowers anyone who does not drive a motorcar—which is the entire population of the young and much of the old—and it makes pedestrians dependent and resentful. The people who are not motorists or who cannot depend on a family chauffeur for their rides are condemned to long periods of waiting for buses on exposed corners and desolate slip roads, where they feel alienated. All too often, public transport is too remote because spread-out cities mean few and infrequent services. To lose a driver’s licence is to be excommunicated and this punishment is weighed as a strong penalty imposed against a crime. To walk in automotive space, which is nearly all Australian suburbs including many of the inner suburbs, means feeling estranged from the community; and indeed you cannot see the community in any manifestation on the streets. I call it antisocial space because it is worse than unfriendly but ferocious. On a bike, you are likely to be maimed and the alienation brings on a brooding dissatisfaction, a glum and defeated feeling, a damnation that might only be redeemed by the prospect of future car ownership.

Sooner or later we will surely realise where we have gone wrong.


  1. It's already happening. Manifesting in high demand/prices for inner metropolian real estate. But it behooves us to make existing city fringe suburbs liveable and not desert them. Doing the latter will only cost society more in the long run through crime and crime prevention and living in fear of our houses being robbed while we are at work. Fortunately there is a means to make surburbia liveable, which the Netherlands has already shown.

  2. "a damnation that might only be redeemed by the prospect of future car ownership" - That's exactly my experience growing up in suburban Perth.

    Everyone around me felt that damnation and treated getting your licence like losing your virginity. (Then treated their cars like pockets of lawless space, competing over how many speeding fines they had) I was an alien because I never felt that damnation, even though I fully expected to. Still a pedestrian/cyclist/public transport user!

  3. "the alienation brings on a brooding dissatisfaction"... wow that really sums up my mental state ever since returning to Australia (from the U.S. no less!)