Sunday, July 02, 2006

"Car culture"

" ... car culture is taking root in China, and in many ways it looks like ours." That's the view taken in a very interesting piece in today's NY Times Magazine ("Capitalist Roaders").

But rather than the mysterious "car culture" virus, it is simply that as people become moderately affluent, they choose the personal freedom offered them by personal transportation.

But the simple explanation is not ominous enough.

"On a snail-paced drive back into Beijing, Zhu had passed through a zone on the edge of town that had been bulldozed and was being rebuilt as upper-income, car-friendly suburbs. In fact, this was happening around cities all over China: new gated communities, new themed enclaves, all for the car-owning class. What was conspicuously missing was a corresponding investment in mass transit, in public spaces and public access. And, in heavy traffic at the end of a tiring trip, it was easy to worry that the Chinese, rather than charting an innovative, alternate route into the automotive era, were on their way down a road that looks a little too familiar."

And what would that "innovative, alternate route" be? This is where the piece ends so we can only speculate what the author had in mind.