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Mock Trial Convicts Urban Car of Human Rights Abuses

September 17, 1992

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) _ The car, often praised and cursed in virtually the same breath, has been convicted of fundamental abuses of human rights.

The car’s faults were listed at length at a mock trial Wednesday at the annual conference of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science.

The car was implicated in the daily slaughter of 250,000 to 500,000 people and the maiming of millions more.

It also was accused of systematically destroying public space; robbing children of play areas and cultural activity; discriminating against society’s disadvantaged; encouraging social segregation; and preventing spontaneous interaction between people.

″The car must never again be allowed to rule our streets,″ said David Engwicht, an urban transport activist who served as prosecutor at the trial.

Given the degree of human complicity, Engwicht did not push for the death penalty and recommended a sentence of perpetual community service.

The witnesses, played by actors, included an expert on cities, a mother of two, and a human-rights expert.

The urbanologist said that as traffic grows, it gradually denies people the use of streets, sidewalks and even their own front yards and living rooms for social interaction.

The mother said she used to meet people on buses and the street, but that the car has drastically reduced such opportunities.

There wasn’t much in the way of a defense, although urban geographer Bob Cotgrove called the anti-car lobby ″misguided and ideologically driven.″ He said the car gives people access to a wider range of activities by cutting travel time.

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