Carfree Quotations
A Carfree Home Page

Following are some quotes that oppose the automobile or raise serious questions as to the long term viability and effects of car culture. So read these words and ditch your car.

Featuring quotations by...

  • Ilya Ehrenburg
  • Repo Man
  • Jane Holtz Kay
  • Jack Kerouac
  • R.A. Lafferty
  • Phil Ochs
  • Anonymous
  • James Howard Kunstler
  • Booth Tarkington
  • Marshall McLuhan
  • Michael Harrington
  • Edward Abbey
  • John Akre

    Ilya Ehrenburg

    Itís a small world. Everyone knows that: Deterding, Citroen, storks, tourists. And this tiny world has too many people. Once upon a time there was a deluge. now Holland is drying out the Zuyder Zee. Once there was a plague, People got used to it and survived it. Laboratories prepare longevity like saccharine, and rejuvenated Methusalems giggle friskily. But the world isnít getting any bigger. Itís crowded now, like a clearance sale at a department store. Warís been done away with. People can only live by using their elbows.

    But then the automobile came to manís rescue. It doesnít wait for any notes, it doesnít demand 14 points like Wilson. Meticulously and efficiently, it cleans the earth. All inoculations and all conferences are powerless against it. The body is quickly removed by truck, the car is carefully wiped, and the record is identified by a multi-digit number.

    At first such things were known as "catastophes." Now people speak of "accidents." Soon theyíll stop speaking altogether. Silently theyíll haul away the victim and silently write down the number.

    Sentimental neighbors wipe their noses, of course, and philosophically minded people argue about the "new peril." Commissions discuss protective laws. But the automobile keeps right on doing its job. Sit Henry Deterding was destined to create an oil empire. Monsieur Andre Citroen was destined to turn out cheap cars. Karl Lang the cabby was destined to cross intersections. The automobile works honestly. Long before its birth, when it is still just layers of metal and piles of drawings, it diligently murders Malayan coolies and Mexican laborers. It is born in agony! It shreds flesh, blinds eyes, eats lungs, destroys minds. At last, it rolls out of the gates into the world which, before its existence, was known as "bright." Instantly, it deprives its supposed owner of his old-fashioned peace of mind. Lilac withers, chickens and dreamers dash away in terror. The automobile laconically runs down pedestrians. It gnaws into the side of a barn or else, grinning, it flies down a slope. It canít be blamed for anything. Its conscience is as clear as Monsieur Citroenís conscience. It only fulfills its destiny: It is destined to wipe out the world.

    Ilya Ehrenburg, 1929 (from The Life of the Automobile)

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    Repo Man

    "The more you drive, the less intelligent you become."

    From the movie Repo Man

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    Jane Holtz Kay

    "'One one-thousand,' environmentalist David Burwell counted, clocking an instant in the polluting life of the automobile. In that single second America's cars and trucks travelled another 60,000 miles, used up 3,000 gallons of petroleum products, and added 60,000 pounds of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. If the canon of the environmental movement is to 'tread lightly on the land,' nothing treads more heavily than the licentious motor vehicle. Traffic is what the eye can see; a car-packed lifestyle and landscape oppress our existence. The motor vehicle and its by-products sully the earth at every turn. 'A car,' to quote another truism, 'is a machine that produces pollution.' Multiply the single engine of contaminants by 200 million motor vehicles and you have our major environmental villain."

    Jane Holtz Kay, 1997 (from Asphalt Nation: How the Automobile Took Over America and How We Can Take It Back)

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    Jack Kerouac

    "dont know how to drive, just typewrite."

    Jack Kerouac, 1953 (from a letter to Neal & Carolyn Cassady)

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    R.A. Lafferty

    Consider the man on horseback, and I have been a man on horseback for most of my life. Well, mostly he is a good man, but there is a change in him as soon as he mounts. Every man on horseback is an arrogant man, however gentle he may be on foot. The man in the automobile is one thousand times as dangerous. I tell you, it will engender absolute selfishness in mankind if the driving of automobiles becomes common. It will breed violence on a scale never seen before. It will mark the end of the family as we know it, the three or four generations living happily in one home. It will destroy the sense of neighborhood and the true sense of Nation. It will create giantized cankers of cities, false opulence of suburbs, ruinized countryside, and unhealthy conglomerations of specialized farming and manufacturing, it will breed rootlessness and immorality. It will make every man a tyrant.

    R.A. Lafferty (thanks to Adbusters for this quote)

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    Phil Ochs

    My Kingdom For a Car

    Iíve found my freedom/ Her and I been flying down that highway of gold/ My shirtsleeves are rolled, my Colt 45 is cold./ I go fast, till Iím going faster.

    Look how far weíve come, look how far/ A car, a car, my kingdom for a car.

    How I love the highway/ Picks me up and takes me wherever I please/ I race through the trees bring space to her knees/ I am master of all thatís flying past me.

    Look how far weíve come, look how far/ A car, a car, my kingdom for a car.

    Take me to tomorrow/ Let me go on racing with the wind in my hair/ Thereís smoke in the air but I do not care/ If you want me, you will have to pass me

    Look how far we've come, look how far/ A car, a car, my kingdom for a car.

    Come to me baby,/ We will leave this town it was not made for a man/ Weíll find a new land, but the traffic is jammed/ I went far but itís a time for walking

    Look how far weíve come, look how far/ A car, a car, my kingdom for a car.

    Phil Ochs, 1968

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    "Get a horse."

    Early anti-automobile quote.

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    James Howard Kunstler

    Anybody who thinks we're going to be using cars twenty-five years from now the way we've been accustomed to using them in the recent past ought to have his head examined. That phase of our national history is over....

    The regime of mass car use is an offshoot of our historical aversion to civility itself. The car allows Americans to persist in the delusion that civic life is unnecessary. As a practical matter, this regime is putting us out of business as a civilization.

    James Howard Kunstler, 1996 (from Home From Nowhere)

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    Booth Tarkington

    "Iím not sure heís wrong about automobiles," Eugene said. "With all their speed forward they may be a step backward in civilization -- that is, in spiritual civilization. It may be that they will not add to the beauty of the world, nor to the life of menís souls. I am not sure. But automobiles have come, and they bring a greater change in our life than most of us suspect. They are here, and almost all outward things are going to be different because of what they bring. They are going to alter war, and they are going to alter peace. I think menís minds are going to be changed in subtle ways because of automobiles; just how, though, I could hardly guess. But you canít have the immense outward changes that they will cause without some inward ones, and it may be that George is right, and that the spiritual alteration will be bad for us. Perhaps, ten or twenty years from now, if we can see the inward change in men by that time, I shouldnít be able to defend the gasoline engine, but would have to agree with him that automobiles Ďhad no business to be invented.í"

    Booth Tarkington (1918) (from The Magnificent Ambersons)

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    Marshall McLuhan

    In the 1930s, when millions of comic books were inundating the young with gore, nobody seemed to notice that emotionally the violence of millions of cars in our streets was incomparably more hysterical than anything that could ever be printed. All the rhinos and hippos and elephants in the world, if gathered in one city, could not begin to create the menace and explosive intensity of the hourly and daily experience of the internal-combustion engine. Are people really expected to internalizeólive withóall this power and explosive violence, without processing and siphoning it off into some form of fantasy for compensation and balance?

    Marshall McLuhan (1963)(from Understanding Media)

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    Michael Harrington

    The car imposes huge indirect costs on the society. Some of the most obvious are the salaries of highway patrolmen, the cost of traffic systems, the price of parking lots. And Charles Abrams has computed the annual cost of the traffic jam -- in terms of time and wages lost, extra fuel consumption, vehicle depreciation, etc. -- at $5 billion.

    Michael Harrington, 1968 (from Toward a Democratic Left)

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    Edward Abbey

    We have agreed not to drive our automobiles into cathedrals, concert halls, art museums, legisaltive assemblies, private bedrooms and other sanctums of our culture; we should treat our national parks with the same deference, for they, too, are holy places.

    Edward Abbey, (from Desert Solitaire) - thanks to Michael Burton for this one.

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    John Akre

    Whether the people are inside or out. Automobiles are a story unto themselves. They've come so far in such a short time. They have taken over everywhere. They break thru the forests and the dunes and the mountains and bring civilization faster and wilder than the railroads ever could. They aren't bound by two rails. They suggest an absolute freedom, freedom that could take the mind to anywhere. They can go even where there are no roads; they can run over everything old and suggest a constant present. They seem like so much freedom but they actually are so much dependence. When you gain a car you lose a self. Cars keep driving to the furthest reaches, past where the roads peter out. The people stay inside them, enclosed in glass and steel.

    Eyes of night
    in full daylight
    squeaks don't stop trucks

    A car can drive. A car can give drive. A car can give you drive. That's why you never stop. That's why you never begin.

    John Akre, (from Billion Million Thousand Hundred Novel Not Extinct)

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Copyright © 1998 John Akre
This page last updated 7 January 2004