Emotional Health

Goofy in motormania

Mental trauma is another sadly unforseen result of harmful behavior. Just like physical damage, emotional stress is closely linked with the damaging ways of life that supress our compassion.
Auto use is the heavy hitter in this arena given that it causes enormous stress not only to the people using them but to everyone who finds themselves nearby. (link) They carve away community, discourage local shopping, cause social isolation, and seperate us from nature.

Close Traffic stifles socializing

From ‘Livable Streets’ by Appleyard, Gerson, & Lintell

Historic cargo bike laugh

Obviously people who use cars find them convenient, and this is made only more so by the priority that politicans give to motor vehicles. The irony here is that not only do they take up more time and money, but they also hamper people’s general satisfaction with life. So what could motivate people to put up with so much unhappiness?

Successful / unsuccessful
Close Successful / unsuccessful

© Andy Singer

For most people who drive, a job (which is usually far away) is the strongest force pushing folks to stay addicted to such a destructive choice. But the hidden toll here is that, when driving to work, a person has to earn 40% more money to feel the same satisfaction with life as someone who gets there by other means. (link) (link) So the ‘success’ of having a good job and a car in the end bring the exact opposite.

But what is satisfaction? Unfortunately, the term is too vague for most of us to put into words. Is it extra time to relax? Or a sense of peace and comfort? Each of us might have a different picture of what satisfaction is, but the one thing that every driver experiences is that, like goofy, the satisfaction that people expect seems to stay constantly out of reach.
So what went wrong?

Trapped

Well, the things that people most connect with driving are traffic, searching for parking, and those 'other' idiot drivers. These are only the experiences that we have on the surface. A much more impactful challenge is the helplessness of sitting for hours every day trapped behind other drivers who themselves feel trapped.

Honk for anger

Drivers can't communicate their outrage except through a car horn, which brings it's own stress. So instead of having an immediate release, these frustrations often show up in more subtle ways down the road. For drivers, the stress from long commute times has been tied to road rage, substance abuse, and even higher divorce rates. One primary reason for this was touched on earlier, it’s always the other person’s fault. As humans we tend to see ourselves as more skilled then the average person without any outside proof. One study found that 673 out of 909 motorists believed that they were better than the average driver. (link)
But obviously we can’t ALL be better then average. So what gives people such an irrational point of view? The answer turns out to be pretty complex. You can read the full study or the more abridged article here.

Many more subtle feelings fester beneath the surface, most importantly is the feeling of being had. The feeling that the 'freedom' tauted by commercials and movies is actually the opposite.

Dutch traffic jam

On a positive note, when we transition to more fulfilling choices, we find an amazing transformation in the number of people we see each day, and the details of our neighborhood that we become conscious of. Suddenly it becomes easy to stop and check out a beautiful garden, browse at a yardsale, or take a new route just for kicks.

Years ago I was cycling through downtown when I happened to see my then girlfriend on the sidewalk. Thanks to our independant travel we were able to have a wonderful unplanned meeting that would never have been possible if one of us had been inside a vehicle. At least half the time that I venture out for an errand or shopping I end up having a conversation with someone. These are the experiences which make everyday life more enjoyable and uplifting.