Dean Clough

July 21, 2023

Portico Darwin: Depart SF + Why I Hate Cars


<3 Minute Read + Links
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Happy Friday.  Tomorrow, we leave for a minibreak to the magic of Mendocino, and we're going with Ol' Purple Label and her hubby, K. Helmsley Garfinkel.  A visit to the Portico Darwin Happy Place Anderson Valley is a given, so I'm already getting jacked.  Indeed, I like the region so much, there's already been a Travel Guide published.

But for some reason, I'm still stuck in Houston, and it's difficult to believe it could be a muse of sorts for this many posts, but so be it.  Because all was not right in Space City, and it wasn't just the gratitude problem.

No, Houston has the worst traffic I have personally seen.  And I live in the SF Bay Area, and have been to LA dozens of times.  As I quipped while there, if adding more lanes to freeways were the answer, Houston would be a driving paradise.  Um, it's not, and so I want to hit the car mentality hard today, with facts and interesting takes from elsewhere.  I hope you'll click through on a few of the links, at least if you're into urban planning and infrastructure.

Let's begin with this gem from Curbed, in 2019.  It blows the lid off of the insanity that are Houston's roads.

It's a complete clusterfuck in Houston in terms of getting around, and - as the article in Curbed points out - the city is a literal poster child for induced demand.  That refers to the phenomena whereby adding lanes to freeways makes traffic worse, because newbies see the capacity and join the madness.   I gave up arguing the fact of induced demand with people years ago, as its counterintuitive nature confuses many.

Next, the size of vehicles in Houston, and frankly, in most of non-urban America.  They are too f'ing huge. 

To the folks that say they like a larger vehicle because it's safer:  safer for whom?  Most definitely not anyone outside your vehicle.  This video, from my new YouTube hero CityNerd, explains why your insistence on a ginormous SUV or pickup truck is fairly selfish.  And vehicles being this size is a relatively new development, which the video opens by documenting.

CityNerd:  Problems with Pickup Trucks

How about a new term, Stroads?  A stroad combines the worst of a road (a multi-lane, limited access, and higher-speed passage between two dense areas) and a street (a one- or two-lane, slow-speed passage where people live, work, play, and access services), while delivering the benefits of neither.  They are uniquely American (and Canadian) and we all know what they look like.

The thing is, stroads are a disaster.  Don't believe me?  Watch this.

Not Just Bikes:  Stroads are Ugly, Expensive and Dangerous (and They're Everywhere)

Or listen to this, from Freakonomics Radio:  Why is the U.S. So Good at Killing Pedestrians?

Let's continue with esthetics.  This is Jacksonville, Florida, at the end (beginning?) of Interstate 10.  Is this really the built environment we want as human beings?

And here is my beloved SF.  The Embarcadero Freeway, shown in this photo completely defacing our waterfront in the 1970s, was good from the perspective that it prevented other places here and elsewhere from being ruined further by the "progress" of more freeways.  This is atrocious, and it happened in many places.



Thankfully, the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake provided permission to remedy the mistake, and this insanity was being removed as we were arriving in SF in 1992.  Here's what the area above looked like last fall. 

Which do you prefer?

My fellow San Franciscans will likely love this 18 minute video of before/during/after the awful Embarcadero Freeway.  Watch it and tell me we didn't favor the automobile over people too much?

Lastly, I hope you'll consider the space and associated expense required to house all of our cars.  Here's a comparison of the relative footprints of two stadiums, one in car-centric LA, the other in old-world, and thus walkable, Edinburgh.  The images are at the same scale and Murrayfield Stadium holds 11,000 more people.  Hmm.

In fact, there's an entire new book on the subject of parking, and here's a podcast with its author.

As I've said forever to anyone that will listen, and even to some that won't:  we must start building our communities around people, not cars.  We can reverse the damage done, but it begins by acknowledging that our total reliance on automobiles has been a big mistake.  And making them electric only fixes a small part of the problem.  We need real interurban and intercity trains again!

If there's another side to this, I would love to hear it and will publish anything I receive from a reader, without comment or snark.

But until then:  happy driving!
And for the record, I do see the hypocrisy in a negative post about driving the day before I leave for a road trip.  Trust me, I wish there were a train we could take, like there used to be.

Have a great weekend.


Our head-over-heels niece Nicki Vale was empathetic, yet in a lovingly backhanded way, regarding my run-in with Catherine Carats, Spoiled Idle Rich Mom.

This is super irritating - the lack of awareness of personal space would set me off.  Although in a less public display 😂.

Speaking of public displays, Hunter Deuce came through with some timely (literally:  Arthur and I had a big piss-up on Wednesday and properly launched things here) information.

Anchor Steam is still on tap at Marina Lounge.  Get it while you can.
Truer words have never been spoken.

Thank you to any one that is reading this newsletter.


If you know me, you already know my preferred mode of transportation is walking.  You may also know I attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which has nothing to do with anything apart from the fact I saw Missing Persons live in the student union there, in 1983.  Here is "Walking in LA".

About Dean Clough

Plans To Enjoy Life.