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31. You Get a Car!

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It’s one of the most famous moments in daytime TV history, but what really happened when Oprah Winfrey gave a brand new Pontiac G6 to every member of her studio audience? Leave it to The War on Cars to take that memorable (and very meme-able) moment and connect it to larger questions about mobility, access to economic opportunity and even the perverse way in which Americans pay for healthcare. In a country where everyone needs a car just to be a contributing member of society, what happens when that vital lifeline is severed? Are stories of 12-mile walks to work and individuals who help their fellow employees by buying them a car really “heartwarming,” as local news stories like to say? Or are they instead signs of a society that has failed at the basics? Is anything actually solved when solving people’s transportation woes is turned into a televised spectacle?

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30. The Automotive Police State

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For a century, the automobile has been sold to Americans as the ultimate freedom machine. In her groundbreaking new book, “Policing the Open Road,” historian and legal scholar Sarah Seo explodes that myth. Seo shows how modern policing evolved in lockstep with the development of the car. And that rather than giving Americans greater freedom, the massive body of traffic law required to facilitate mass motoring helped to establish a kind of automotive police state. Is a car a private, personal space deserving Fourth Amendment protection from “unreasonable searches and seizures?” Or is a car something else entirely? It’s a question that courts have struggled with for decades, ultimately leaving it up to the police to use their own discretion, often with horrifying results, especially for minorities. In this revelatory conversation with TWOC co-host Aaron Naparstek, Seo offers an entirely new way of looking at the impact of the automobile on American life, law and culture.

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SHOW NOTES: 

Buy Sarah Seo’s book, “Policing the Open Road: How Cars Transformed American Freedom.”

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29. What Uber Hath Wrought

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For a few years after Uber launched in 2009, it seemed like the on-demand ride-hailing service might be an advance in the war on cars — a way for more people to share fewer vehicles and to reduce overall automobile dependence. Fast forward a decade, and the rise of Uber (along with Lyft) has instead resulted in increased congestion, reductions in transit ridership, and the exploitation of a precarious workforce that the company would love to make obsolete altogether. In this episode, we talk with New York Times tech reporter Mike Isaac about his new book, “Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber,” in which he chronicles the rise and fall of Uber’s co-founder, Travis Kalanick. We hear what Mike has to say about the cult of the founder and the way Kalanick’s winner-take-all mentality has negatively affected the streets of the world’s cities.

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Rate and review the war effort on iTunes.

Buy a War on Cars t-shirt at Cotton Bureau.

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28. The Problem With Public Meetings, Part 2

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In Part 1 of “The Problem With Public Meetings” we took you inside a frustrating community meeting in Fort Greene, Brooklyn and urged compassion and understanding for neighbors who aren’t quite yet on board with The War on Cars. Here in Part 2, we’re taking you to yet another community meeting, this time, in Park Slope, Brooklyn where diplomacy fails, the action gets kinetic and a TWOC co-host is physically assaulted by a bike lane hating conspiracy theorist meditation instructor. Yes, you heard that right. How do you know when it’s time to stop working to find common ground with parking-obsessed, car-addicted, change-averse members of your community and simply focus on their utter, total and overwhelming defeat in the arena of local politics? Strap on your helmet, soldiers. Get ready for The Battle of 9th Street.

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27. The Problem with Public Meetings, Part 1

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In the battle to make cities better for walking, biking and transit, there’s no more important front line than local community meetings. So when a flyer advertising a town-hall forum about the New York City Department of Transportation’s alleged “war on cars” began appearing in Brooklyn neighborhoods, we knew we had to attend. On this episode, we discuss what happens when regular citizens gather to discuss losing precious parking spaces to benefit the greater good. What are some tactics advocates can use to bring people around to their point of view? Given the typical format of these forums, is finding common ground even possible? Is there a better way to conduct public meetings or is screaming at each other in a church social hall a necessary evil? [NOTE: Due to some late-breaking developments, this is part one of a two-part series on public meetings.]

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26. Dying for Change

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Twenty-one people riding bicycles have been killed this year on the streets of New York City. That’s more than double the number of bike fatalities in all of 2018. In early July, after a terrible week in which three people on bicycles were killed in quick succession, more than a thousand demonstrators showed up in Lower Manhattan’s Washington Square Park for a “Die-In” to demand that officials take more aggressive action to make streets safe. In this episode, we hear from Die-In participants and Doug, Sarah and Aaron talk about advocacy, activism and change-making. Is it better to be polite and work within the system or disobedient and disruptive? Who in city government should be the target of these urgent calls to action, the politicians or the police? What can we learn from the work of other grassroots social and political movements throughout history? And do NYPD bicycle cops ever actually ride their bikes or do they only use them as crowd control barricades? 

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Buy an official War on Cars T-shirt at Cotton Bureau.

Rate and review The War On Cars on iTunes.

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25. Found in Translation: TWOC Goes to Japan

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When you’re used to the culture of streets in the United States of America — that is, variations on kill or be killed — traveling to countries that do it differently can be both a shock to the system and an inspiration. So it was when TWOC co-host Sarah Goodyear spent three weeks in Japan this summer, and heard exactly one car honk in that entire time. In this episode, we discuss the human infrastructure of mutual respect that makes Japanese cities so different from American ones; hear from Japanese street activists about how they’re inspired by their counterparts in the United States and Europe; and talk about what we can learn by leaving home. Also, members of a group called the Tokyo Picnic Club discuss “the right to picnic” as a basic human right for people in crowded cities. 

Support The War on Cars on Patreon and receive stickers, T-shirts, exclusive access to special audio content and more.

Buy an official War on Cars T-shirt at Cotton Bureau.

Rate and review The War On Cars on iTunes.

SHOW NOTES: 

Bike ambassador Chad Feyen offers bicycle tours of Tokyo at Freewheeling Japan. You can also follow him on Twitter.

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24. Barcelona’s Superblocks with David Roberts of Vox.

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Barcelona, Spain is testing out a powerful new weapon in the war on cars. It’s called the Superilla or, in english, the “Superblock.” Last October, Vox Media’s energy and environment reporter David Roberts spent ten days in Barcelona taking a deep dive into the city’s ambitious plan to reclaim more than half of its total street space from motor vehicles by creating five hundred Superblocks. In this one-on-one conversation, David sits down with TWOC co-host Aaron Naparstek and tells the inside story of Barcelona’s visionary car-fighting, air-cleaning and neighborhood-empowering strategy. Could Superblocks even be a solution for fixing dysfunctional liberal democracies? It’s so crazy it just might work.

Support The War on Cars on Patreon and receive stickers, T-shirts, exclusive access to special audio content and more.

Buy an official War on Cars T-shirt at Cotton Bureau.

Rate and review The War On Cars on iTunes.

SHOW NOTES: 

Barcelona’s Radical Plan to Take Back Streets From Cars is David Roberts’ must-read five-part series at Vox. Seriously, it’s great.

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23. Adam Conover Ruins The War On Cars

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What do comedy and fighting the war on cars have in common? For answers, Doug talks with Adam Conover, the creator and host of TruTV’s “Adam Ruins Everything.” The show, a new season of which premieres on August 13th, combines humor, sharp writing and deeply sourced research to deconstruct the conventional wisdom about subjects most Americans take for granted, including cars. In this special one-on-one interview, Adam explains why taking the bus in LA is better than driving, discusses how excited he was to tell people the history of the word “jaywalking,” and offers lessons on presenting information to anyone fighting their own war on cars.

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22. The War On Cars Meets Car Talk – The Full Interview

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In this TWOC extra, we present co-host Doug Gordon’s full interview with Ray Magliozzi of “Car Talk,” conducted in February 2019 at the WBUR studios in Boston and previously available only to Patreon supporters. Hear more about Ray’s thoughts on how cities are changing to be more friendly to people who aren’t in cars and learn why he sometimes runs red lights on his bike.

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