Dean Clough

June 14, 2024

Portico Darwin: It Was The Cars



2 Minute Read + External Videos and Articles!

Happy Friday and sorry, but I am going to bang on yet again about cars and that they suck.   

But today, I offer evidence (that you can review over the weekend!) for something I've said for a long time:  A central factor in our country's malaise was building everything for cars instead of people. 

And by malaise, I mean the division, isolation, poor health, and middle-class evisceration that has overtaken us.  While social media has clearly made the division and isolation worse - far worse - that's a blog for another time.  Because today, I would like to back my anti-driving blather with facts you can consider for yourself. 

Or not consider - but isn't that how we got this, Houston, Exhibit A for It Was the Cars?

Background:  My Car Hatred Origin Story
Where does this all come from?  That's easy:  It was nearly 25 years ago when I read Suburban Nation., originally published in 2000.

I sincerely wish this book were as well-known as Jane Jacobs and her The Death and Life of Great American Cities.  Like that classic, Suburban Nation is as relevant today as ever.  I hope you'll read it - here it is on Amazon, with no affiliate BS.  In fact, the first person who asks will get a copy with my compliments.

Division and Isolation
If you pay attention to nothing else in this post, I do hope you'll watch at least one of these amazing videos.  Each brings to life what freeways destroyed, and what is left in their wake.

Oakland (580/880/980) 
Chicago (Dan Ryan Expressway)
LA (Santa Monica Freeway)
Buffalo (Kensington Expressway)

Poor Health
It doesn't take a genius to figure out that spending 2 hours each day on your ass in your car on jammed freeways going to and from work is not ideal, physically or mentally.  Well, at least compared to walking, walking to transit, or riding a bike. 

Oh, and have you ever considered the respiratory health of those raised near highways?  Who needs coal mines? 

If you're interested, here's the source research paper for that table, or you can do it yourself:  Try searching for the respiratory health impact of highways.  There's been a lot of scholarship on this subject, and it's ugly.

Middle Class Evisceration
Did you know it costs almost $700,000 to own a car over your driving life?  Neither did I, until I read this article, from the red-meat capitalism bible Forbes.

Some samples:

“The typical American male devotes more than 1,600 hours a year to his car,” and “he spends four of his sixteen waking hours on the road or gathering his resources for it.”

More recently, Adam Ozimek, chief economist at Upwork, commented that mass-market car ownership doesn’t make economic sense.

“Spending $40,000 on a car seems like the kind of thing to me that, intuitively, you do when you have like a couple million in wealth and make $400,000 a year,” he wrote.  “But absolutely normal people do it all the time - it blows me away.”

Wouldn't It Be Nice

Let me respond and close on an optimistic note.  This is for my friends who are certain the car-minimized world I envision means crushing density and tiny apartments by default.  This 10-minute video on YouTube disproves that, showing how we could build - if we only would.

Suburbanites Will Flock to This 15-Minute City and Like It

Have a great weekend.


I appreciated the kind words on my casino rant from the famed artist Charles Clough, and not so famed anything Hunter Deuce.  

Charlie kept it simple with a nice "Good one!"  But Hunter?  Well, Hunter gonna be Hunter.

Your "Black Cloud" nickname reminded me of this great film:  The Cooler, starring William H. Macy, Maria Bello, and Alec Baldwin. 

Macy plays a sad-sack loser named Bernie Lootz (you read that correctly) who is employed by the casino (run by Alec Baldwin) to act as a professional "cooler" - his luck is so bad that he roams the floor, sitting in on a table whenever someone starts winning.  

When he falls for a waitress (Maria Bello) and begins a relationship with her, his luck begins to change and he becomes less effective at his job, much to the chagrin of Baldwin.

Thanks, Hunter - it sounds like a charming romcom.

Thank you for reading this newsletter.  


Appropriately (for today's subject and also for the band, as this would be their last Killer album) wrapping with "Road to Nowhere," here are Talking Heads and Little Creatures.

About Dean Clough