Exploring the economic impact of car-minimal living

Moving away from autos as our main source of transportation would result in vast changes in both physical and socioeconomic landscapes; before we explored the actual physical ramifications of car-minimal city planning, so now it’s only fair to examine the socioeconomic changes that would result. We’ll look at this in two parts, starting with the economic changes, as that will lead smoothly into the social transformation that comes from this fundamental change.

An immediate consequence of car-minimal living is the difference in road planning and implementation; currently, roads are designed for the large blocks of metal that we drive around on them, and to mitigate the damage that results from the repeated stress inflicted on them. By moving to bikes and various types of light mopeds (for some uses which will be explored later) we reduce the stress on the roads, and can use far lighter, easier-to-manipulate materials; higher quantities of recycled rubber from industrial sources and recycled tyres may be included in the surfacing mix, decreasing the environmental impact of their implementation, while only using light vehicles on these roads reduces the wear and tear of the seasons (vital in states in the northern regions of the US), reducing the costs of repairing the roads. The final result of this change in that regard, then, is vastly reduced road assessments (since we’re using on average, 1/3 of the current material used, of a more sustainable and less expensive variety, and needing far less frequent repairs.)

Another direct result of changing to car-minimal living is the change in what support services would be readily available: gas stations and auto mechanics would be essentially nonexistent within the city, only prevalent near the parking ramps around the periphery; on the other hand, bike stores and bike mechanics would be prevalent throughout the whole region, from the city core to the periphery, even well-distributed in the residential areas. Most likely, bike collectives would likewise become prevalent, as they would provide easier access to components and tools for those who are interested in repairing their bikes themselves.

Because of the shift to bicycles, I would expect some other changes in areas such as grocery shopping; because people would be bringing their purchases home by bicycle, the more logical choice would be to return to neighbourhood supermarkets and greengrocers, as opposed to today’s hypermarkets; residents would buy what food they needed for a few days, instead of doing a week’s worth of shopping at a time. This same change would most likely affect the way discount retailers function as well, since smaller stores that cater to separate markets (clothing, housewares, furnishings, etc.) would be at an advantage when someone is shopping with more limited storage space than a car or SUV provides; of course, there are workarounds to provide as much storage space when riding a bike, but the point holds that smaller stores based around an individual focus would be more competitive in such a market.

Although there is a cost burden associated with using mass transit, compared to regularly buying gas at prices at 3,50$ or above for a gallon, such a tradeoff is certainly viable. Other factors to consider are the lack of incidential expenses for cars, such as replacing brakes, tyres, muffler, etc. Although brake pads and tyres on bikes do need to be replaced, the difference is that they are far, far less expensive than for cars. Overall, these changes would generally leave residents with more disposable income available for purchases or savings, both of which benefit the local economy.

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