A Human-Scaled Journey: Finding our way in a society built for cars, a comic by Sylvia Odhner
Revisiting Independence
March 22nd, 2024

This is a follow-up to Cars and Independence, which has a received a lot of both positive and negative attention. In response to some of the criticism, I wanted to clarify my point so that people are less likely to dismiss it due to misinterpretation.

Comic Text
I have to clear something up. In a previous comic, I said this: "Now the whole idea of independence is a messy social construct with a bunch of issues that I won’t get into right now." It didn’t occur to me that the phrase "social construct" would elicit such a broad negative response, so I regret saying it.

I think independence can be a good thing. But it’s a loosely defined idea and we can never fully have it. As long as we live in a society, we will always be dependent on some things, whether it’s car insurance companies, the public transit system, or anything else we rely on. So it’s relative.

But this is the big problem: Here in the United States, the independence associated with driving a car has become such a high ideal that we’ve neglected all other forms of transportation in favor of car infrastructure. We have this idea that everyone should drive a car in order to be a functioning member of society, but a lot of people can’t drive or don’t want to drive. And by making driving the only viable option, we’ve taken away their independence.

Person in a parking lot with a service dog on the phone: Hey, can you give me a ride again?

So I think some of our common cultural ideas of independence are overly simplistic and counter-productive.

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Taking Action With Strong Towns
Revisiting Independence
The Walk Light
Cars and Independence
The Shopping Center Disconnect
A Culture of Positive Change

A Human-Scaled Journey is a nonfiction comic I created to document my experience learning about sustainable and walkable infrastucture and related ideas. It will include a combination of informative comics and journal-style comics, as well as collaborative comics showing other people's experiences and expertise.