America is the land of the automobile. Of course I knew that before I came here, but actually being in an ordinary American city like Albany made me see how true it is.
Places like New York City and Chicago all have decent public transportation, but in smaller cities everyone relies on their car.
Recently I had to pay a visit to the doctor’s office. The distance between the university health center and my dorm is about the same as the distance between my doctor and room in Nijmegen.
Normally, I’d just hop on my bike and be there in less than 15 minutes. Here, I had to plan my visit meticulously. First, I’d walk for 10 minutes to the bus stop, then I’d take the bus to a bigger bus station where there would hopefully be a shuttle bus to take me to the health center.
During the 45-minute trip, I gawked out of the window. It seemed like a totally different world. Here, doctors’ offices aren’t located in cozy residential neighbourhoods, but in big buildings on anonymous business parks.
Going shopping is a similar experience: instead of biking a few minutes to the city center, I have to take a bus to a large mall outside of the actual city of Albany. Sure, it’s convenient that all the shops are under one roof, but it is also a bit boring that there are no quaint streets to stroll through.
Even to visit America’s nature, you have to have a car. I went to Yosemite National Park, which offers truly mesmerising sights. How do you get there? By car, of course. But even within the park, you go from sight to sight in the comfort of your own car.