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Carmageddon: it’s killing urban life. We must reclaim our cities before it’s too late

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What is the best way of wrecking a city? Pour cars into it. Heavy traffic, 50 years of research shows, breaks up communities, disrupts social life and crushes local cultures. Noise drowns out conversation and drives people indoors. Pollution makes streets inhospitable. Cars take up the space that might have been used for children to play, adults to meet, and local projects to grow.

Street life is treated as an impediment to traffic. In cities all over the world it has been cleared for cars. Stalls, hawkers, football and cricket games, old people playing dominoes, chess or pétanque: all must make way for the car. So much land is required for driving and parking that there is little left for human life. In cities like Barcelona that curb traffic, cars use about 25% of the urban area. In cities like Houston that don’t, they use 60%. The car eats the public space that could otherwise become parks, cycle lanes, markets and playgrounds.

Land Rover’s new advertisements for its Range Rover Evoque create the opposite impression: that this ridiculous gas guzzler contributes to urban culture. The Evoque is marketed as “the Range Rover for the city”, which sounds like a contradiction: SUVs like this were originally designed for dirt roads in the countryside. But now, according to the agency behind this revolting campaign, we are invited to use it to “explore your city” and create your own “urban adventures”.

One of the ads features the supermodel Adwoa Aboah driving through Brixton, staring at the interesting street life as if on a human safari and talking about its “amazing soul and rhythm … People here are real”. It gives the impression the car is passing through market streets where traffic is prohibited. Why? Because these are the places with the most “amazing soul and rhythm”.

She also drives down Brixton........

© The Guardian