Sunday, March 17, 2019

Grumpy Sunday thoughts
on the plague of cars

This infographic (by Pictograph Corporation) appears within 1943's An Introduction to Sociology and Social Problems (second edition) by Deborah MacLurg Jensen, and it serves as a good ephemeral jumping off point for a post about cars and walkable communities. It shows the ways that automobiles changed life in the United States. Ostensibly, it's supposed to be a pro-automobile illustration but, especially with hindsight, it makes it clear how cars pushed our communities, neighborhoods, schools and public services apart, making cars fully mandatory for existence within society.

I'm crankier than usual about cars today for a couple reasons. First, I had to leave the house on three separate occasions within seven hours to run automobile errands, which is horribly inefficient and no help for our climate. Second, I came across this Atlas Obscura post on Facebook this morning:

To which my response was essentially:
WHY?!?! Cities weren't even built for cars until the last 100 years and they probably never should have been in the first place. There should be no entitlement to roads going everywhere and cars parking everywhere. What's wrong with a few car-free neighborhoods? Or at least off-site parking?
Longtime reader(s) know that walkable communities are not a new theme or dream here on Papergreat. If you want to dive further into this topic and don't have a James Howard Kunstler book handy, here are some past posts:

Also, as CGI Princess Leia might say, there was hope that I stumbled into on another front this morning. Specifically, I discovered a Curbed article titled "Could a car-free, Dutch-style city work in Colorado?" It was written by Megan Barber and published last month. Here's an excerpt:
"[There would be] no traditional city grid. Instead the plan uses Dutch easement and platting standards as a model, envisioning an 80-person-per acre average density that will feel far lower thanks to parks, public squares, and short distances to the countryside outside of town. Each street will prioritize cycling and pedestrians while parking lots will only be built at the edge of the city."
You should read the full article for more groovy details. Clearly, this project will cost a ton of money. And I have serious upfront concerns that this kind of community wouldn't be available to people of all socioeconomic backgrounds. Still, I think it should be encouraged. We can learn things from each experiment like this and hopefully build a future world where we're much less dependent on cars. (Assuming we have a planet left for that future.)

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