Being a Non-Driver in a Car-Dependent World

A third or more of Americans cannot drive due to their age, ability, or other factors. How can their travel needs inform our transportation systems?

2 minute read

May 23, 2024, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Close-up of person with vision impairment wearing jeans and white sneakers crossing yellow and white striped crosswalk with cane.

Михаил Решетников / Adobe Stock

In an episode of The Brake podcast, Streetsblog staff interviews Anna Zivarts, author of When Driving is Not an Option: Steering Away From Car Dependency. Zivarts’ book outlines how paying attention to the needs of people who can’t or don’t drive — a population she says is likely undercounted in the United States — we can make transportation systems better for everyone.

I started really trying to figure out: how many other people are there out there who can't drive? How many people with disabilities? How many people who can't afford cars? If we talk about young folks, or folks who have their licenses suspended, and folks who are undocumented, and folks who are aging out of driving — how many of us are there?

Zivarts focuses on people who are non-drivers by necessity, meaning that they often may not have the ability, energy, or skills to use bikes or other ‘active’ transportation. “I think there's so much emphasis on efficiency in many of our systems; the piece that’s often overlooked [is] thinking about things from more of a disability perspective, and focusing instead in prioritizing inclusion [and] access.”

The book also urges the reader to assess the broader costs of car dependency. “At the end of the day, when we think about how much vehicles cost, the environmental costs, the climate costs, the public health costs of your air and noise pollution, the public health costs of crashes —  these are all significant. Perhaps we'd all be better off if we start to think about transitioning away from car dependency?”

Tuesday, May 21, 2024 in Streetsblog USA

Three colorful, large beachfront homes, one khaki, one blue, and one yellow, with a small dune in front and flat sand in foreground.

Florida Homeowners 'Nope Out' of Beach Restoration Over Public Access

The U.S. Corps of Engineers and Redington Shores, Florida are at a standstill: The Corps won’t spend public money to restore private beaches, and homeowners are refusing to grant public access to the beaches behind their home in return for federal assistance.

June 7, 2024 - Grist

Multistory apartment building under construction.

New Tennessee Law Allows No-Cost Incentives for Affordable Housing

Local governments in the Volunteer State can now offer developers incentives like increased density, lower parking requirements, and priority permitting for affordable housing projects.

June 10, 2024 - Nooga Today

Pumping Gas

10 States Where the Gas Tax Is Highest

As the gap between gas tax revenue and transportation funding needs widen across the country, the funding mechanism is drawing increased scrutiny from both public officials and consumers.

June 9, 2024 - The Ascent

Concrete walkway with landscaping, decorative tiles, and picnic tables in a Los Angeles County park.

Wish Granted: Former Brownfield Transformed to New Park

Wishing Tree Park in West Carson, California officially opened last month, replacing a brownfield site with a much-needed green space for recreation and respite.

June 14 - Urbanize LA

"No right turn on red" and "Turning vehicles yield to pedestrians" sign.

The Tide is Turning on Right Turns on Red

The policy, which stems from the gas embargo of the 1970s, makes intersections more dangerous for pedestrians.

June 14 - NPR

Thick green forest on edge of lake in Louisville, Kentucky.

Louisville Begins Process to Clean Superfund Site

A public forest is home to dozens of barrels that have been leaking toxic materials for decades.

June 14 - Inside Climate News

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.