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THE catchphrase “ghost estates” is well-worn term by now. However, another catch phrase that has appeared in the media of late, coined by the heritage organisation An Taisce, is “ghost roads”.
This describes the ridiculously exaggerated scale that motorways in Ireland have been built to, while completely ignoring future energy problems, pressing environmental concerns, as well as the quantifiable decline in car numbers
We live in a “landscape of subtraction” where more and more land is appropriated for car culture. This is becoming ever more visible as Ireland’s landscape shrinks under swathes of tarmac and the “ooze” of overblown motorways. Crucial public space, vital food-producing land and wildlife habitats have been handed over to the demands of the car.
The evolution of car culture was not a natural progression, however. The rise of car popularity was greatly encouraged by obstinate politicians, oil industries, motoring organisations and one-dimensional seekers of preference satisfaction.
Additionally, the complicity of modernist urban planners and architects, traffic engineers, engineering quangos and their construction company buddies cannot be ignored.
In the Journal of Psychiatry and Law, summer, 1984, Prof Ralph Slovenko coined the term “mobilopathy”, describing the pathological automobile way of life as a “plague” covering the land, ravishing all before it.
Cars have contributed nothing to our human condition, our communities and our environment. They have only taken away.
The cost of the roads built to serve the car, the energy extracted, the industrial energy consumed in producing millions of motor vehicles a year, the health costs of sedentary lifestyles, the horrors of road carnage are all enormous and largely disregarded.
What started out as a promise for a better life based on unlimited mobility has become a modern-day car trap – a condition of mobilopathy, as motorised lemmings on ghost roads head for the edge of the energy and ecological cliff after years of endless traffic jams, stress, frustration and huge financial costs.
Now where’s my bike?
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