Sep 232007

Joseph B. White at the Wall Street Journal says new car sales are down because cars are boring:

New-car sales are sagging in America and car makers are blaming the housing slump or the credit crunch. I suspect something else. I suspect boredom. Face it. A lot of the cars sold in America are just dull.

Whose heart leaps at the thought of firing up a Toyota Corolla? If you took away the logos, who could discern a significant difference among the interiors of any five $35,000 luxury cars? Black plastic, faux wood grain, even “metallic look” plastics — clichés all. Sport utility vehicles and crossovers? Ho hum.

Well, of course cars are boring. They’ve been boring since the 1970s. They’re commodity items now. And the safety and efficiency people have taken everything of interest out of the main roads. Bridges are just slab-sided affairs that keep you from seeing the scenery you’re crossing. Local safety people cut down the trees that used to provide arbors over country roads, and have cut and filled to provide good lines of sight, and incidentally to disconnect the roads from the world of which they once was a part. And, as White points out, there is the traffic.

White, being a journalist, blames the state of affairs on government. No, not because of governmental meddling. He thinks there hasn’t been enough government meddling. Ho, hum. Dog bites man; journalist wants more government. All the things he wants may make cars more efficient, but they will not make driving less boring.

If you want the open road to be exciting, get a bicycle. In my role as The Spokesrider I get more memories of scenery and road experiences in any day of riding than I do in years’ worth of driving.

Even now, I can review in my mind details of a week-long tour I did eleven years ago. I sometimes surprise myself with what I recall when I try to review the whole ride in my mind, from beginning to end. The closest I come to that in a car was a drive to Canada’s Arctic some years ago — but even there I can’t remember all the little details that I do of bike rides to podunk towns in the Midwest. Bicyling is a multi-sensory experience — with sight, smells, touch, sounds. Sometimes it’s even a tasty experience, as when riding late in the day and insects come out.

Cars, on the other hand, are designed to insulate you from sensation. Get a bicycle.