I was in rural Costa Rica recently. Driving the roads, you can’t help but notice the basic and primitive transportation often used by many of the locals: Old, stripped-down cars, kids holding grocery sacks and riding on the handlebars of their parents’ bikes, motorcycles with no lights, and “worse.” That’s all far from ideal, but despite what we would view as evidence of poverty, the country seems happy and vibrant and is making progress. I suspect our roads (maybe our country more generally) looked and felt about like this 80 years ago.
That kind of transportation would be illegal in the U.S. today. We effectively tell our poor people that if they can’t afford a car with three-point seatbelts, emissions controls, liability insurance and a government-certified infant carseat, they’ll just have to stay home or walk. And then we’re frustrated that the poor have trouble “getting anywhere” in America.