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

Incidents #1 (Boulder, Denver)

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

The honeymoon is over: even a pandemic cannot clear the streets for long. I know, I know, it’s a sign that national economies are surviving. But, my, for those who spend most of their time on their feet or on their bikes, the quiet, clear streets were wonderful.

A couple of incidents have come to my attention lately: a bike fatality in Boulder and an apologetic driver in Denver.
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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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Covidiocy, Covidity, Covitality

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

I was pretty sure I had invented all those words, but that’s not the case. Covidiocy refers to people who make inane statements or perform inane actions relative to covid-19. Covidity refers to having a proclivity toward respecting the guidelines for slowing down the spread of the virus. Covidity has its own Facebook page. Covitality predates covid-19. It is a kind of therapy for adolescents (especially). It phonetically contrasts with co-dependence. In Person vs. Automobile, however, I give it a new meaning.
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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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Road, Rage, and Peace

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

Road Rage

While I enjoy embedding a good video in a post, I will spare you any road-rage videos, although if you search YouTube on “road rage compilation,” you can view to your heart’s delight, or until your stomach turns (as mine did). However, because it captures so much of the road-rage mental state, this animated video by Your Favorite Martian is worth a view (it would get an E for explicit lyrics on iTunes, so, kids, you might not want to play it for your parents).
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Best Cars to Get Hit By as a Pedestrian

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

Today, we start with a quiz. What do these cars have in common?

  • Mazda CX-3
  • Volvo V40
  • Infiniti Q30
  • BMW Z4
  • Mazda MX-5

If you said they are the best cars for pedestrians to get hit by, you are fully woke.[1]
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Good News for Pedestrians and Bicyclists

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

Below are some recent events that chip away at the disproportionate role of the automobile in Western society (and, technologically, almost all society is Western).

  • Everywhere: Protected bicycle lanes make even automobile drivers safer
  • Colorado: New legislation increases penalty for drivers who hit vulnerable individuals
  • Spain: People protest automobile pollution in Madrid

Protected Bike Lanes

As reported in “CU Denver Today” an extensive study recently concludes that adding protective bike lanes (i.e. lanes with a physical barrier, not just paint) to city streets not only makes the bicyclists safer but all the drivers safer.[1]

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