Mickey Knox sums up his opinion of LA: “How in hell can one live in a city where having a car is as important as having a place to live in.”
I might rephrase this as “who would design a city in where having a car is as important as having a place to live in”. The core of my current home of St. Louis was built before car ownership was common, but our city fathers seem to specialize in making the city pedestrian and bicycle unfriendly: interstates carving up neighborhoods, no sidewalks, no enforcement of traffic laws. And a ridiculously inadequate public transportation system. I’m afraid many American cities have gone the same way: outside New York, and a few other cities, car ownership is an expectation. The financial and health costs to the owners, and the environmental costs from the pollution, don’t seem to enter into anyone’s calculations.
Knox was an interesting character, by the way: a Brooklyn-born actor who appeared in a number of gangster films (he was the drive in White Heat, for instance) until he was blacklisted. He went to Europe where he worked as a dialogue coach and dialogue director: he taught Anna Magnani her lines for The Rose Tattoo and dubbed The Good, the Bad and the Ugly into English. I recommend his autobiography, The good, the bad and the dolce vita (Nation Books, 2004).
Full disclosure here: I lived happily car-free in New York City, Jersey City, Boston, Chicago and Amherst, and bought my first car when I moved to St. Louis County to accept a job. I have a feeling if other Americans had the experience of living in cities where cars were not necessary, they would demand cities built for people, not automobiles.