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37. Finnish Lessons

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What can cold cities, where people nonetheless bike year-round through snow and seemingly endless hours of darkness, tell us about what it takes to make better streets? In this episode, Sarah reports back from her trip to Finland and the the 8th annual Winter Cycling Conference, held in Joensuu and Helsinki in early February. How does active transportation figure into Helsinki’s goal to become the world “most functional city”? What’s the right way to prioritize transportation modes? And why are most fully grown Americans less rugged than the average Finnish 11-year-old? 

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36. Live in Denver!

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For our first live episode, The War on Cars heads to Denver, Colorado to check in on the Mile High City’s battle against automobile dominance. From the announcement that the Denver Department of Transportation and Infrastructure will install 125 miles of bike lanes by 2023 to the recent closure of B-cycle, the city’s bicycle sharing system, it’s been a year of good news and bad for Denverites. And there’s no one better to comment on the news than our guest, Kyle Clark, the host of “Next with Kyle Clark” on Denver’s 9 News. When Kyle, in a forceful on-air editorial, pushed back against a bout of NIMBYism in his own backyard, the clip swept the Twitterverse and brought the issue of bike-friendly streets to a general television audience. Kyle joins us to talk about the role TV news plays in the fight for a better city and how people waging their own war on cars can work with, not against, reporters. 

Recorded February 10th, 2020 at the Moving People Forward Conference in Denver, Colorado presented by Bicycle Colorado.

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35. Suburbans in the City

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The Chevrolet Suburban is one of General Motors’ most enduring triumphs — the longest-running nameplate in automotive history, to use the industry jargon, and the original SUV. In production since 1935, it’s grown from an all-American family vehicle, perfect for loading up the kids and heading out into the country, into an 18-foot-long status symbol for VIPs — including titans of finance, A-list celebrities, politicians and the occasional drug lord. It’s even the first vehicle to earn a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. While the Suburban used to be about suburbia, it isn’t anymore. In this episode, we talk with Angie Schmitt, a journalist working on a book about the pedestrian safety crisis in the United States, about how the Suburban’s rise foretold the modern SUV boom, and just how dangerous these land sharks can be.

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34. Department of Bikeland Security

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Making change happen in a big, complex, bureaucratic city is really hard. One guy who knows all about that is Shabazz Stuart, the Chief Executive Officer of Oonee, a Brooklyn-based startup company that is developing secure bike-parking kiosks at major transit hubs in and around New York City. For this episode, Shabazz joins The War on Cars crew in the studio and Aaron traverses two rivers and travels all the way to New Jersey — New Jersey! — to lay eyes on the new secret weapon in The War on Cars. Plus, we’re doing some live events. Check out the Show Notes for more details. 

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And check out the new podcast from our friends over at TransitCenter. It’s called High Frequency

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33. WCAR Drive Time Radio

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Is the Hyperloop for real or are easily duped elected officials the only people it will take for a ride? Do e-bikes have the power to transform the suburbs? Why should politicians and the press say “crash” instead of “accident”? What’s the best way to convince people to live a car-free life? On this year-end episode, Sarah, Doug and Aaron answer these questions and more from listeners fighting their own local versions of the War on Cars. Plus, what were the best transportation-related developments of 2019? 

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32. Kara Swisher Says Car Ownership is Finished

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Last March, renowned tech journalist and prognosticator Kara Swisher wrote a New York Times opinion piece with the headline, “Owning a car will soon be as quaint as owning a horse.” In it, she declared she would sell her own car and vowed she would never again own an automobile. “The concept of actually purchasing, maintaining, insuring and garaging an automobile in the next few decades? Finished,” she wrote. That column set off thousands of outraged commenters — and activated the radar at The War on Cars. We sat down with Kara at the Vox studios in downtown Manhattan to talk about what it’s like living without wheels of her own, why she loves scooters, and whether we’ll ever get the
Star Trek Holodeck we’ve been promised.

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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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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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