Comment 41545

By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted June 03, 2010 at 14:19:09

For most young people I know, spanning the range of very poor working class kids to ones from fairly affluent families, simply cannot afford a car without help from their parents, especially guys. It becomes a question of living on your own or having a car and living with your parents. In Hamilton, it's almost always possible for a 21-year-old male to get an appartment for less than insurance. Once you factor in car payments, gas and repairs, you could easily own a house. And I too have seen horror stories...people who have been cycling everywhere for years and are only now paying off (with fairly "good" jobs which pay well) cars they haven't seen in years. Hold onto that car for a year too long, and the repair bills alone can ruin a young person financially, especially if your car HAS to be back on the road in a day or two for work.

I'd suspect the drop in acceptability of drinking and driving has a lot to do with the decreases in driving as much as any factor. In many circles, even thoroughly "disreputable" ones, it simply is not acceptable among young people today; thank you MADD. I once watched a party full of anarchist street punks and drug dealers call the police because they'd been unable to stop a drunk guy from driving away (he wrapped the car around a pole before even getting to the next bar). The fewer people who own or bring cars to parties, pubs and bars put more and more pressure on a few designated drivers, and I can tell ya from personal experience that driving your drunk friends around regularly gets old fast. And as you lose out on the opportunity to show off your fancy car in social circumstances (like the Toronto club district on a Saturday night), the social impetus to own one drops a lot, especially high-end sports cars and SUVs.

The rising cost and complexity of cars doesn't help, either. In 1978 you could often buy a "beater" for less than many now pay a month in insurance. And because they didn't have onboard computers, anyone with a socket set and a few high school auto shop classes could keep one running. Now even people I know who've worked as mechanics can't keep their cars working without a shop.

A young person in Hamilton can typically pick up an old 10-speed bike for $20-50 at a garage sale or bike co-op, maintain it for a few dozen bucks a year in oil, inner tubes and replacement parts (often available for less than the price of coffee). And that allows them to cruise, without paying for gas, at 20-30 km/h with very little effort, more than fast enough to compete with cars in an urban setting. They don't need a licence, are subject to far fewer laws and obnoxious police stops (not to mention the main penalty for not paying tickets is suspension of one's driver's licence), are faster, cheaper and easier to park, and much safer to drive home after you've had a few at the bar (at least for other road users). Vintage bikes are quite hip (fixed conversions, cruisers etc), dirt cheap and not hard to shine up (some new bar tape/grips, a new seat or even a coat of spray paint), unlike either new or vintage cars. And since a flashy bike can be chained right up to (some) Hess Villiage patio fences, and slim physiques get ya at least as many girls/guys as a nice car, it isn't hard to see why the times are-a-changin'.

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