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So, I am creating a post-apocalyptic world set 97 years after nuclear war, in the former state of California, AD 2059. The Californians, compared to the rests of the wastes, have done well for themselves, creating lawful cities and towns with advanced infrastructure. Their society compares to ours at around 1880s-90s level.

A few technophiles have even gotten some cars up and running again and use them to travel more quickly between cities, but not inside of them. Motor vehicles have been outlawed for use within city gates.

My question is, what problems would be caused by such improvised old technology within the cities' vicinities in post-apocalyptic California to form a logical basis for banning motor vehicles?

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    $\begingroup$ I believe this question is too story-based because you are developing what Elemtilas calls a "narrative necessity." You're basically asking us to write your story, not help develop your world. As written, valid answers range from "a law was passed forbidding it" to "your cities don't have roads, just path ways" or "god requires it." The correct answer is whatever the plot of your story (not the rules or systems of your world) requires. If you can rewrite the question such that no aspect of your story appears in it, I'll happily retract my vote. (Note that as written it's also POB.) $\endgroup$ – JBH Mar 24 at 6:43
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    $\begingroup$ Cars use fuel. Fuel is explosive. Explosives are weapons. Thus cars are weapons. $\endgroup$ – kikirex Mar 24 at 15:34
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    $\begingroup$ You need to choose the specific context for the explanation in terms of systems or rules. You can't ask for everything or the question is too broad (and, frankly, it's your duty as the author to decide where your story is going). So, for example, if you wanted your story to deal with laws (and remembering that you need to be specific), you might ask, "what would be a societal basis for a law forbidding the use of automobiles in 1885 San Francisco?" (The city is important, society in Vladivostok is different.) So, what aspect of the world do you need to control the choice? $\endgroup$ – JBH Mar 24 at 16:26
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    $\begingroup$ As a second example, if you wanted a technological solution, you might ask "in 1895's Sydney, Australia, what technological reason would prohibit cars from being used inside the city?" You choose the story basis, which identifies the worldbuilding basis, and then we have a question. $\endgroup$ – JBH Mar 24 at 16:28
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH: Can you please vote to reopen my question $\endgroup$ – DT Cooper Mar 27 at 14:11
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Cars that exist were built to travel between the cities in the wastelands. If we assume the normal post-apocalypse setting this would imply features such as heavy suspension, off-road wheels, large fuel tanks, significant cargo and passenger capacity, improvised armor giving some protection against small arms fire and attachments to mount such weapons into.

In other words you are essentially talking about an improvised military vehicle such as a technical, at the very low end. Most vehicles would be larger to carry more payload.

Then if you note the complete collapse of law and order, you'd expect most settlements to be walled to some extent to reduce casual raiding. This means that space inside the walls is at premium, which means a typical settlement will not have internal routes wide enough for the typical vehicle.

And that is exactly the way people like it! People in other settlements and even some bandits have vehicles too! So they'd actually spend some effort into making absolutely sure that even the smallest technicals cannot drive around. If some local bandits have motorcycles people would build obstacles for those as well.

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With no cars allowed within the city borders, everyone is forced to walk. This allows anybody to spot the outsiders, since any physical deformity resulting in walking deficiency will denounce by itself.

Instead, inside the chassis of a car, anyone coming from the burned wastelands could pretend to be a rightful Californian! You know how these outsiders are: constantly seeking for clean gene pools to contaminate with their irradiated wacky DNA.

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  • $\begingroup$ Well, we could use bicycles.... $\endgroup$ – Efialtes Apr 17 at 12:33
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The obvious:

The automobiles, with their unexpected backfires, weird artificial smells, random clanging, unexpected chugging, and irritating horn, will frighten the much more numerous and essential horses of the town.

Frightened horses can be quite dangerous, and can cause a lot of damage.

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The most obvious reason would be that the city might be safer without motor vehicles. In today's society, cars take the lives of several thousand people each day. There's a particularly one-sided danger for pedestrians, and if drivers are a minority in the roads of California's cities then those drivers can pose a serious threat to the safety of the rest of the population.

Another issue might be found in the development of infrastructure. Depending on how badly our current infrastructure was damaged during the war, I see two possible paths of development. In the first scenario, the current infrastructure was badly damaged or destroyed by the war, leaving open spaces for the survivors to make a fresh start. Depending on the organization and planning of the cities, there may not even be roads, given that cars wouldn't have been useful for a long time after the war. In this case, there simply isn't any room for cars to fit in a pedestrian-oriented city. In the second scenario, the Californians build upon the remnants of the existing infrastructure, with roads remaining intact in between the buildings. In this case, again, the pedestrians may have simply taken over the walking space. With drivers being a minority, the pedestrians feel no need to inconvenience themselves for the sake of allowing automobiles in the city.

The people of California's cities may also distrust cars for special circumstances and plot reasons. Maybe the cars were powered by nuclear motors as in the Fallout games, and the natives believe them to still be dangerous or prone to cause explosions. If these cars are left over from before the war, there may be a sense of general mistrust for the technology and the civilization it once represented. They might even dislike cars for their pollution, which they have grown more sensitive to after the apocalypse. Overall, there are a variety of explanations that you can use to justify your prohibition of vehicles in cities.

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The towns might simply not be set up for motor vehicles. Look at many of the older cities in Europe: the old districts are full of narrow, twisting roads that are ill-suited for cars and trucks at the best of times. Since there's no demand to speak of for wider, straighter roads, there's no incentive for your towns to spend extra time and effort making them. (And if your towns had a period where they needed walls and other defenses against marauders, that's a strong incentive to build compact.)

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My reasons all kinda flow from a couple of top level reasons:

They do allow them...there's just not enough gas

One can debate the difference on the engine between the high-speeds of highways/freeways and the start and stop of city driving (honestly, it depends) but its common knowledge - fairly easy to prove too - that driving in city with its stop-and-start traffic uses more gas. In a post-apocalyptic world I would think that:

  1. You want to make every single drop of gas count (limited resource)
  2. The cities would be small so overcrowding would make car travel slower (think rush hour but with people walking everywhere)
  3. If your cities are "safe-haven" style cities (like Fallout or several other) they would likely be very small and walled in - meaning logically its really a waste when you can just walk.
    • In larger cities, like if Cisco mostly survived, the local transport may also have survived making it easier to just use the trolley or cheaper (gas is expensive remember) to use a solar powered gulf cart, rickshaw, or other transport service in city then it is to pay for gas. Plus, these groups would know the city so could be safer (or at least considered safer).
  4. If you run out of gas in the middle of a city - you won't come back to your car (or might just find the frame). Safer to park it with an organization, friend you know, or leave a member to guard and then come back to it.

They do allow them...it's just not safe (for you)

This kinda runs with #4 above - cars maybe precious commodities (fit story reason why here, there are plenty to pick from) esp. fully working cars. So if you don't want your car stolen or striped of all its parts - it's better to hide it under guard outside the city for most trips (could be one or two "bigger cities" which have some form of protected parking garages).

You could also simply be targeted by criminals or gangs just for having a car - it's flying a big "I have money!" sign.

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    $\begingroup$ That 4th reason is already a reality in a few places $\endgroup$ – DT Cooper Mar 24 at 4:54
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Armoured cars had been used for drive-by shootings. Non-armoured cars had been used as car bombs. Both had been used as getaway vehicles for robberies and murders.

Banning weapons would be stupid - a town where guns and knives were illegal would become a target for every raider gang out there. But, by removing the ability to flee the crime scene swiftly and safely, you make it more likely that the perpetrators will be caught by the police (if they are lucky) or irate, upstanding and well-armed citizens (if they are not!)

The only vehicles permitted within the towns are for the security forces, transferring prisoners, VIPs and valuables

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  • $\begingroup$ Came here to suggest something like this. Vehicles are excellent for skirmish warfare, and it wouldn't be too hard to imagine the town having to fight off a raider-warlords technicals. The guards could be under standing orders to fire on any vehicle that isn't theirs. Thus it's better for your health to park a few miles away and walk into town. $\endgroup$ – UIDAlexD Apr 17 at 13:53
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(1) Driving in a city is very fuel expensive. Constantly stopping and starting is uneconomic and in these days refined petroleum is hard to come by.

When travelling between cities on relatively straight roads using a high gear, it becomes economically viable, especially when transporting goods and passengers.

(2) It is a sort of stage-coach setup. Being able to zoom past bandits is a huge advantage, especially if you have an armoured vehicle and someone riding shotgun.

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As part of the attacks on civilian targets, the Enemy dropped thousands of Anti-Vehicle mines on our cities. Most of them are still there, somewhere, waiting for a large enough weight/magnetic interference/what-have-you to pass by and cause a detonation.

For the safety of the city, all vehicles are banned until we can find and defuse all these mines.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is not a bad answer but could be expanded as its only "more likely" that a vehicle will set them off. As anti-vehicle and anti-tank mines will still go off if enough people step on them (esp. older model ones). Their sensors are good but I know for a fact that a group of people hiking over them can set them off - though you are more likely to notice them since your actually walking - now imagine rush hour in a city with 100s of people constantly walking where these are hidden (probably a few have gone off - leading to this ban so there's not more). $\endgroup$ – JGreenwell Apr 17 at 13:42
  • $\begingroup$ Modern sensors may be triggered by a group of hikers, but sensors from AD 2059 will likely be more sophisticated. $\endgroup$ – Kyyshak Apr 17 at 14:04

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