Saturday, December 22, 2012

Car Culture Exclusion

Posted by JooHwan Kim, ATLANTA, GA -- As an international student from Korea, I find the pedestrian-unfriendly, car-centered street system in Atlanta strange.  In Seoul there are footways (sidewalks) on both sides of the street everywhere you go. However, in Atlanta sidewalks seem rare. Sometimes there is no distinction between the space for pedestrians and the space for cars. Signs warning careful driving for the protection of children imply that they play on the streets. In this sense the street becomes a space both for children’s playing and for car-driving. The absence of sidewalks or the non-distinction between space for people and cars creates a tension that is downright dangerous.

This car-centered street system also demonstrates the unequal power relation between car users and pedestrians. The absence of sidewalks, crosswalks, and non-distinction between spaces for people and cars convey that those streets were initially designed to prevent pedestrians from accessing certain neighborhoods. Therefore such areas become enclosed spaces. “No Loitering” signs reflect exclusion: those without cars are not allowed.

In fact, those with limited access are the people who do not have their own cars. Atlanta's car-centered-street system excludes lower income people who cannot afford a car, most of whom must take risks everyday negotiating streets without sidewalks.

JooHwan Kim is a Doctoral Student in Sociology at Georgia State University. He can be contacted at

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