Are drivers in the city “like smokers in our children’s bedrooms”?

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: “‘Drivers in the city are like smokers in our children’s bedrooms,’ says me on Dutch telly last night,” tweeted Dr Steven Fleming, a cycling and architect expert.

Is Fleming’s view just controversial? Or is it a fact too few people are unwilling to accept? Do we keep ignoring the dryly communicated warnings from the EPA‬, and warnings from obesity experts? Even when those warnings aren’t so dry, why don’t we listen more?

Fleming’s phrasing is at the extreme end, but it’s hard to complain at all about cars without being marked as an “anti-car zealots” by the AA.

Cars have their use but we use them too much is the view of many cycling campaigners and others, but this is classed simply as anti-car.

Meanwhile, the AA’s spin doctor makes bogus claims that a family of five breathing is a larger emissions problem than a new car, and that emissions from cars are overall reducing (both on the AA’s site and to the Oireachtas Transport  Committee). 

The AA — a car insurance company with a big conflict of interest — are given a free rein on the airwaves to complain about projects which improve the city and continue to be viewed as safety experts even after the AA made a submission to increase speed limits on city centre and residential streets in Dublin.  

Why even mention the AA in this article? Their treatment on radio shows contrasts with anybody who tries to suggest excessive car isn’t good for society.

Public transport, we’re told, is rubbish and cycling is dangerous, but we’re often told this by the people arguing against improving cycling and public transport.

But did Fleming go too far? What he said is accurate, although maybe it’s too stark for a sensitive audience? But maybe — like road safety adverts or health warnings — people need to be shocked? It might not be a total solution but a part of a mix of solutions.

Playing too nicely while the likes of the AA make stuff up and get away with it hasn’t worked so far.


  1. He’s absolutely right of course.
    However, cars are a direct source of huge revenue which Irish people seem happy to pay.
    I often thought that if a harmless smoke additive could be put in diesel and petrol for a month so pedestrians could SEE the problem there would be immediate outrage and class action lawsuits to ban cars from streets.
    I live in Sligo and regularly see cars parked on the street with the engine running while the driver goes about his / her business.
    Awareness, lack of, is the problem.

  2. Good that you mentioned the recent atrocious attempt by the AA to claim that pedestrians and cyclists were more polluting than cars. That was the first thing that came to mind when I started reading this and it is worth debunking at every opportunity. Perhaps I am too cynical (although I doubt it) but I think a lot of people heard that claim and simply believed it, just because it suited them to. “Sure my car isn’t causing pollution, people produce more just walking around, sure one of them huffing and puffing lycra wearing / ninja / scofflaw cyclists is probably 10 times worse than my X5”.

    For information, I’m happy to send a couple of hours in a poorly ventilated room with a cyclist on a stationary bike if Conor Faughnan is willing to do the same with a running car. Just saying.

  3. As mentioned above, if people could see the shite coming out of the tail-pipe then it might persuade more that cars are killing us all. On cold mornings you CAN see it, and it’s horrifying.

    Another way to get people to understand what they’re doing to the atmosphere is get them to stand in a small poorly-ventilated room with their car running. That’ll also get them to understand what’s actually going on.

    The person who said that cars are like smokers didn’t go far enough. A hundred years in the future people will look back and say ‘why the hell didn’t more people speak out?’. It’s like sexual harassment of women as portrayed in MadMen, the Magdalene Laundries, slavery etc. We all look back and go WTF were people thinking then.

    I say it’s the same with cars killing us all with pollutants right now. And WTF are they all thinking? Where’s the political leadership? It’s mind-boggling.


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