Your car isn’t a human right, researcher says

Governments need to move away from the mindset that cars are a human right that can’t be taken away, according to an urban planning expert.

Hulya Gilbert, a researcher from the University of South Australia, also challenges the belief that cars provide freedom. Instead, she says, they create dependency.

Hulya Gilbert

“We have to move away from the idea that cars provide freedom therefore we can’t take that away from people, that is not true,” she told Government News.

“Actually cars really create dependency for people. People shouldn’t be in a position to need their cars to just go to the shops, go to the school, go to their friends.”

Not a human right

Ms Gilbert says it’s important for the government to start thinking differently.

“We have to move away from the mindset that people need to drive everywhere, and that driving is a human right because it is not,” she says.

“Walking and cycling is actually a human right because it is better for us socially and physically and mentally.”

Currently, the mobility of people is not considered in transport plans and urban policies, and the privilege is always given to cars, Ms Gilbert says.

“The most important message is to start thinking differently and think about alternative solutions.

“Transport planning and urban planning shouldn’t be about how to move traffic and how to fit in more cars.”

Ms Gilbert would like to see a cycling culture but says it’s a habit that needs to start early.

“We have to start while children are young to make sure they establish some sustainable travel habits, otherwise they won’t know any other travel mode than cars if you keep driving them everywhere,” she said.

The Netherlands, for example, have strong educational programs that start with preschoolers.

“They introduce cycling to kids at the preschool level, and then they have very very strong programs throughout primary school and high school,” she says.

“And then once people have their drivers licence, there is more education and training about how to look after the pedestrians.”

Cultural change

Ms Gilbert admits it won’t be easy to change Australia’s love affair with cars.

“It is not easy because the car culture in Australian society is deeply entrenched, it’s really there. We have a nation who really love their cars, there’s no doubt about that, but there’s still lots of opportunities.

“When you look at any city in Australia, they are really really car dependent. There’s nothing to encourage people to ditch their cars and get the bike or get on their feet.

“I think it is difficult but it is not impossible, so you can do a lot but it has to be a comprehensive and holistic approach that includes changes to infrastructure, educational programs and social norms.”

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