Auto-centric "imprinting" and our consumer products
Richard Layman pens a defense of parking reform in the usually anti-change themail@dcwatch. Explaining the anti-urban views of many city dwellers, he writes, "Most of us who live in the city came from other places where the car was dominant. So we donít understand that we are imprinted with a particular paradigm, and that this paradigm is inappropriate for the city."
One reason we're locked into an auto-oriented way of thinking about life is that our consumer economy is primarily designed for households with a car. For example, instead of corner grocery stores like they have in Europe, where people walk down the block to buy what they need for the day, Americans buy a week's worth of groceries all together. Thus, corner stores mostly just sell liquor and supermarkets grow ever huger to compete. And of course, it's extremely difficult to transport that many groceries without a car.
This doesn't doom us to a society of mandatory car ownership; car sharing makes it eminently reasonable for carless households to shop this way. But it's also not the only way. In New York City, small portable shopping carts are a common sight, and teenagers to grandmothers easily transport a few bags of groceries home from the store without ever driving.
I had one of these carts, but it was in storage; consequently, I ended up driving to a big supermarket with parking (usually the Georgetown Safeway or the Van Ness Giant) every few weeks, making smaller trips to the Dupont Safeway in between. But now I have the cart back, and it's easy as pie to wheel heavy groceries home from Safeway. The biggest obstacle: while almost all NYC grocery carts have hooks to easily hang a portable cart while shopping, Safeway's carts have no good place to attach one. Since too few people use portable carts, I'll need to get some hooks of my own.
The technology problem becomes especially acute for families, which some argue have too difficult a time living in the city. As more families choose to do just that, we'll see more products that make their lives easier. For example, Layman points us to the Zigo, a combination bicycle and baby stroller. A parent can ride with one or two children in the pod in front, detach the bike to create a traditional stroller, connect bigger wheels for jogging, or use the bike without children attached at all.
I expect future products of this type (if they don't already exist) will also contain cargo space, allowing a parent to ride to the grocery with children, park and lock the bicycle while shopping, then load groceries into another compartment. It's almost like a car, only it takes up less space, burns no fossil fuel, and is much less likely to kill pedestrians.
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