Some time ago, a distinguished colleague of mine proposed an alternative universe, in which bicycles and cars have swapped places. I'd like to propose another one. In this one, the personal automobile is yet to be invented. Otherwise, the universe mostly resembles the one we happen to live in.
People get around by means of public transport (underground trains, overground trains, aeroplanes, boats, buses, trams, what have you) and personal transport (walking, rollerblading, bicycling (electrically assisted or not), horseback, canoes, what have you). Urban areas are much nicer to live in than in The Actual Universe, as you probably can imagine. There's not nearly as much noise, pollution and traffic jams even in very densely populated areas.
Suppose, then, that a bright young engineer, Pentti Automobile from Suomussalmi, invents the personal automobile. Almost immediately, a group of people forms, calls themselves The Group Of People For The Cause Of Promoting Personal Automobiling (not very catchy, is it not?) and writes a manifesto. (The group is fronted by this guy, BTW.) The manifesto reads, in its entirety:
"We, The Group Of People For The Cause Of Promoting Personal Automobiling, demand that
1) anyone, regardless of talent, IQ, acquired capability or ability for temperance, must have the right to own at least one personal automobile
2) the said personal automobile can weight several tons, even without having a practical reason for that
3) the said personal automobile can have a ridiculously excessive maximum speed, even without having a practical reason for that
4) the said personal automobile can have excessive noise levels
5) the said personal automobile can emit toxic substances into the environment
6) anyone must have the right to drive their personal automobile into any place they want (e.g. into the heart of the most crowded area in any city)
7) anyone must have the right to park their personal automobile for indeterminate period of time even in the heart of the most crowded area in any city
8) the personal automobile shall have an implicit right of way over lighter traffic
9) all traffic arrangements must immediately be changed to favour personal automobiles over other vehicles
10) fear of personal automobiles shall be instilled upon the young, the elderly, the bicyclists and the animals."
Of course, the public largely ignores such manifesto. The authority responds to the manifesto shortly: "Hell no, that's dangerous. And absurd."