WASHINGTON, D.C. — As more communities successfully reclaim their streets for people, cars are taking to the sidewalks in protest, honking loudly in support of automotive autonomy. The protesters, who also include pick-up trucks and tractor-trailers, claim that they are the rightful kings of the road and refuse to share street space with pedestrians, bicycles, and other modes of transportation. Leading experts at Meineke, Aamco, and Bill’s Auto Body claim to have treated over 80 million automobiles who have sustained scrapes and internal injuries while occupying public spaces in the past month, but the estimate is widely believed to be inflated.
The protesters have also shifted their lobbying efforts in Washington into high gear, convincing the Michigan Congressional delegation to draft legislation and a Constitutional Amendment that would extend many basic rights to automobiles and “preserve the sanctity of automobile culture in American life.”
The movement is led by the Coalition for Automotive Rights (CAR). According to CAR’s spokesman, a black 1983 Pontiac Trans Am who goes only by the acronym K.I.T.T., “Many of the spaces where cars thrive are threatened in today’s America. Malls, tract housing, and parking structures are becoming less relevant because communities would rather create places that support the needs of pedestrians and local businesses.” K.I.T.T then whirred for a few seconds before adding, “Spaces that accommodate autos no longer get the equal respect they deserve, so cars must take over spaces traditionally reserved for people.”
Recent direct actions by CAR include:
PPS President Fred Kent seemed unconcerned by the protests. “It’s nice to see automobiles doing the protesting for once. This is just a sign that Americans are designing our cities around places that people want to be in, rather than for cars to move through.”
But the legislation pending in Congress has received a strong boost from new Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. Flanked by K.I.T.T. and Herbie the Love Bug, Chertoff said yesterday in a televised press conference that “Americans are safest in their cars and should show solidarity with cars as much as possible to support the security of the nation.”
Some of the legislation being considered includes:
The Clear Roads Initiative. Will provide funding to build roads and parking lots so that the paved spaces of America equal the area of Texas by 2020 (they are now only equivalent to the size of Ohio), in line with projections for demand and expectations for Level of Service. (Projections supplied by AAA.)
The First Amendment for Automobiles. Would permit automobiles to remove their mufflers, add customized horns, and “wear” advertisements wrapped around their chassis’s.
The Universal Automobile Access Act. Mandates access for automobiles to all sidewalks, parks, public areas, and downtown developments.
The Parking Rights Amendment. With only a little over 100 million publicly accessible parking spots in America, this country may be facing what some parking consultants say will be “a crisis where everyone will be driving around looking for parking spots from dawn to dusk.” The Parking Rights Amendment would require every public institution, church, business, and home to provide cars with parking spaces on demand.
But chances of Congress passing these measures are virtually nil, according to Capitol Hill insiders. Leaders of both parties, increasingly aware of Americans’ newfound love affair with public places now that the danger and annoyance of traffic has been minimized in many towns, oppose these pro-car bills.
Rep. Dennis Hastert, Republican Speaker of the House (R-Ill.), has stated on several occasions, “The era of exclusive auto domination of America’s streets and transportation systems is over.” Sen. Harry Reid, Democratic leader in the Senate (D-Nev.), said, “This is that rare occasion when I agree entirely with speaker Hastert.”
Last week Congress overwhelmingly passed a new transportation bill with transit, bicycle facilities, and pedestrian amenities funded at twice the level of roads. President George W. Bush signed the bill yesterday without hesitation, after a meeting where key advisor Karl Rove showed him the latest polls on the rising popularity of pedestrian-friendly public spaces.