How my anti-car stance was really ignited in Spain

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THE motor car - the belching, burping, bastard child of the American century - is a curse on the human city. Every one should be racked, stacked and packed, and set alight with Jeremy Clarkson tied atop.

The motor car - atomic bomb, chemical weaponry and that last Metallica album aside - is perhaps the most vile of all man’s monsters. Henry T Ford was a tyrant. He blighted every town on Earth.

This is the conclusion I have slowly been reaching my whole life.

I am not an angry cyclist, I am not a failed driver (first time pass, ithankyou), I am definitely not a Green Party member. I just don’t like cars.

And from now on, whenever some boorish bore - some middle aged moaner – shouts that Sheffield City Council is anti-car, I shall say: But hold your horse-power engines there you little Dick (Hammond), and let’s think about that sensibly for a second...

Cars, let me stress, have never done me any harm. None have ever hit me. Most have taken me where I wish to go with far less fuss than, for example, my dad who was probably driving. I understand James Bond wouldn’t work if he had to chase the bad guys on the number 52 bus.

But my final straw came last week in Spain. There I stood stunned by the beauty of the Fountain of Cibeles, an imperial gem of ageless splendour, and all I could think was: this would definitely have a better vibe if it wasn’t surrounded by 10 lanes of roaring traffic. Them Spanish had only made a roundabout of their finest monument. Sort of like the French with the Arc de Triomphe, or the American with any building they can throw a bit of tarmac around.

But that’s happening here too, isn’t it?

Our neighbourhoods are cluttered with the clattering of a thousand penis extensions. Sheffield shop-owners blame lost footfall on lack of parking, suggesting we won’t even visit town if we can’t keep one cheek on the seat. And schools? Lord, most parents aren’t happy unless they drive their child right up to their desk.

So, let’s think about this sensibly – is Sheffield Council too anti-car?

No. Because if it was anti-car enough our city would be a place without exhaust smoke and smog; where bikes and pedestrians took priority, and where trams networked our neighbourhoods. If it was anti-car enough there’d be a bunch of car parks off the ring-road and only buses, emergency vehicles and the odd delivery truck would be allowed inside. If it was anti-car enough Sheffield would strike out for a more humane future: it would go car free.

Why not, I asked my dad, as we debated. It could revolutionise the concept of city. He didn’t answer. He was negotiating traffic. He asked where I wanted dropping. I said my front door.