Opening Streets for People and Closing them for Cars

Mission: To promote driving less so all may live more.

Awful as it is, the pandemic handed a few favors over to mother nature.

For months, cars were mostly parked. One could cross streets before setting up an appointment with a local priest for last rites.

One could see blue sky in big cities, such as Delhi—and one could hear birds singing where before one heard only vehicles:

Dehli Blue Skies
Blue skies in Dehli (NPR, “With Coronavirus Lockdown, India’s Cities See Clear Blue Skies As Air Pollution Drops,” April 10, 2020)

Much of that return-to-nature is passing, alas.

One change, however, that is likely to persist (likely to succeed), are the streets that have been closed to cars in order to gain space for outdoor dining for cafes and restaurants. Welcome, Low Traffic Neighborhoods (LTNs).

Close to my home is the town of Louisville, Colorado:

Main St. Louisville CO
Main St., Louisville, CO (Colorado Hometown Weekly, April 13, 2021)

According to the article on Louisville, Main Street will be open to (un-endangered) pedestrians and outdoor tables “April 26 through Nov. 1” (similar to the summer of 2020). Let’s take what we can get.

Not so close to my home, opening streets in Scotland is going well:

And, a bit south, in England…

Not only streets with eateries, but streets with schools are being blocked off, often to dozens of SUVs that drive less than a mile to get the kids to and from school. Many kids bike on their own, but they can also relax in a trailer (and let the parents do the work):

It’s no surprise that bikes take care of the school transportation in the Netherlands:

Nor should it be (but it is to me) a surprise about Finland:

And, of course, it’s not only people who need un-endangered transit on streets—this street being again in Nederland:

Incidents #2 (Including the New Commuter Frustration)

Mission: To promote driving less so all may live more.

The New Commuter Frustration

In the previous Incidents #1, I led with a biking fatality. This time I’ll mend my ways and start out on a happier note, wrapping up with a pedestrian fatality. I’m sorry, but as a serious pedestrian (a luxury, I know, although I used to run 8 miles to work…so I’m not fully unqualified to speak)…ahem, as a serious pedestrian, I have a privileged point of view on how the tire and engine noise, size, and sheer mass of cars is disproportionate to the tiny beings they transport, insulating the beings from the true external effects of the vehicles. Ok, said that.

During the first covid19 surge last Spring, birds could be heard in cities, nature began to clap her hands, and self-propelled people breathed a sigh of relief. With this current surge, not so, at all. And, yes, the economy needs lots of people to commute to work and shop.

Happily, a new but different problem has arisen that belies a psychological demand, not an economic one. In a recent article in The Washington Post, we discover that,

Even when Shayne Swift works from home, the high school principal ends her day behind the wheel of her forest-green Jeep Liberty, chatting by phone with family and friends.
But Swift isn’t driving. Usually, she said, she sits parked in her driveway in Northwest Washington — the closest she often gets to something she has dearly missed during the pandemic: her commute.[1]

In the case of Shayne Swift, the psychological need for cars would be on my side. After all, cars are great as mini-houses that are probably safer than a huge home during a lightening storm. In addition, a few good speakers and a good stereo can sound better than much more expensive equipment in a big home.

The rest of the article details how some kind of distance (more temporal than spatial) is genuinely helpful to insulate people from feeling like captives either at home or at work. Walking from one’s bedroom to one’s study and back, along with the need to nurture children, just does not provide a break.

If sitting in one’s driveway is too conspicuous (to the family members), drive halfway around the block or to the neighborhood park. Want to use your cell phone in your car? This is the perfect way. Talk or text away. The American love affair with cars can be consummated safely, inexpensively, and with a small carbon footprint.

Another Obituary Item, Sorry to Report

The web site of the Denver television station KDVR reports that on January 19th, 2021, Chris Baker, 36, was crossing Federal near 70th when he was fatally hit by a car that promptly drove away. Fortunately for the wheels of justice, several people reported the driver’s identity to the police and he was later arrested.[2] The article continues, “The crash was the third hit-and-run on Federal Boulevard since the new year, and the second to turn deadly.”

The article goes on to quote Jill Locantore, who is with Denver Streets Partnership:

We know that this street is dangerous by design, and these deaths are going to continue to happen until we make changes to the street. . . . Every single traffic fatality, it’s not just a number, it’s a person, who had friends and family members who mourn that loss, and it just breaks my heart, because I know we can prevent that hurt from happening in our community.

The good news is that Denver Streets Partnership is a coalition looking out for the self-propelled. May they be blessed in their work.

Chris Baker
36-year old, Chris Baker

 

____Footnotes____

[1] Katherine Shaver, The Washington Post, PUBLISHED: Dec. 31, 2020: Months of pandemic teleworking have left some missing their commutes

[2] Victim identified in deadly Westminster hit-and-run

Covitality – Signs of Life on Earth Day

Mission: To promote driving less so all may live more.

When Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle, announces his marriage to Hamlet’s mother, he (an incestuous, murderous villain) has the political wherewithal to admit the timing of the wedding wasn’t ideal, since it came “With mirth in funeral, and with dirge in marriage.” So much more must I lament the fact that the mission statement for this web log is being realized around the world. People are driving less so all may live more.

It would be absurd to talk about the silver lining of the present pandemic (or, as several preachers I’ve heard say, the “global pandemic”). The cost is too high and, really, the effects will probably be short lived. Two days ago, a barrel of crude oil was worth negative $35 or so; today you must pay upward of $20 or so for the same barrel. This pandemic too will pass.

In the mean time, however, it is worth pointing out that here on earth (on Earth Day, also) the virus has given us a picture of what the world could look like if people chose to drive less instead being forced by legal mandate to drive less.
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David Byrne (Talking Heads) and His Bicycle

Mission: To promote driving less so all may live more.

He owns a very nice bike helmet, he says, and even wears it if he needs to ride in gnarly traffic. However, with dedicated bike lanes, such as along the West Side of New York City, he lets his (now) gray hair blow in the wind. He doesn’t want to unnecessarily risk “helmet hair.”[1]

David Byrne on bike, nice helmet in basket (from NY Times interview on Youtube )

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The Legal Bias Against Pedestrians and Bikes (Part 2 of 2)

Mission: To promote driving less so all may live more.

When I discuss the American (and increasingly global) dependency on automobiles, some people with a politically conservative bend respond by saying that the problem is a result of personal irresponsibility, no more.[1]

I was raised to think this way, to think individualistically. So I get it.

However, over time, I realize that done exclusively, this thinking allows conniving and greedy organizations (or their leaders) to move invisibly through the world, exploiting freedom by limiting the range of choices that occur to individuals. As a result of such organizations, even if one’s moral fabric permitted him or her to resist pernicious trends, the very idea of resisting may never enter one’s mind. The gains of corporate and political greed are usually won upstream, with whispers in back rooms, such as, What they don’t know won’t hurt us, and, I don’t care who they vote for as long as I choose the candidates.

Continue reading “The Legal Bias Against Pedestrians and Bikes (Part 2 of 2)”

The Legal Bias Against Pedestrians and Bikes (Part 1 of 2)

Mission: To promote driving less so all may live more.

This is the first of two posts that highlight points made by Gregory H. Shill, University of Iowa College of Law, in his paper, “Should Law Subsidize Driving?”.[1]

Shill’s eminently readable, 76-page paper has already been summarized nicely in the article, “How Driving is Encouraged and Subsidized — By Law,” by Angie Schmitt (March 6, 2019).[2]
Continue reading “The Legal Bias Against Pedestrians and Bikes (Part 1 of 2)”

Public Transportation Desert (guest post, Marc Syrene)

Mission: To promote driving less so all may live more.

[Marc, from southern Colorado, has turned his Mercedes into a car that burns the diesel fuel he also makes. Following is a post he wrote on the dilemmas with which he struggles. — Louis]

Driving Less in a Public Transportation Desert

AeroKroil, my latest hope in the fight to get my 1995 Mercedes diesel back on the road.

Embarrassment, the key motivator to pull her in to my garage to figure out why she is smoking so bad when started cold. I pulled the fuel injectors to test them and two of the crush washers, which all need to be replaced, are frozen in there with carbon deposits; hence the AeroKroil. AeroKroil is supposed to be the “best” penetrating oil out there. The gun toters like it to clean their guns cuz it dissolves carbon.
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Person Meets Police

Mission: To promote driving less so all may live more.

This is “person meets police” not “person vs. police,” please note.

Tuesday, April 2, I discovered late in the morning that I had a business meeting in Denver. The only bus that would get me there on time is the “LD2,” a regional bus that happens to skip my home town. So I decided to run out to highway 287 to catch it, which isn’t a big deal or a long run (about a mile), except that there was no bus stop where I expected one.

So I began to run south along the wide-shouldered highway toward the real bus stop, a mile away. Meanwhile, time was running out, so when cars came by, I turned around and stuck out my thumb, hoping someone would give me a short ride to the next stop.

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Hit in a Crosswalk (Part 3)

Mission: To promote driving less so all may live more.

The previous post explained how the City of Boulder addressed the flashing crosswalk where Laura was hit by an SUV. In short, they addressed it gloriously:
(1) they upgraded to a light that first flashed, then turned solid yellow, and finally turned solid red (putting the fear of Officer MacDougal in drivers), and
(2) they later made the supreme fix: building an underpass
to completely insulate pedestrians and bikers from those big, heavy chunks of metal and plastic that accelerate more easily than they brake.
Continue reading “Hit in a Crosswalk (Part 3)”