Americans didn’t immediately fall in love with cars. It’s been a Machiavellian relationship for a century, so maybe we can break up now.
On the Relentless Campaign to Force Americans to Accept the Automobile
“In 1995, comedian Denis Leary recorded a track called “Asshole,” a song about an all-American guy who likes “football and porno and books about war.” It concludes with a monologue:
I’m gonna get myself a 1967 Cadillac Eldorado convertible
Hot pink, with whale skin hubcaps
And all leather cow interior
And big brown baby seal eyes for head lights
And I’m gonna drive in that baby at 115 miles per hour
Gettin’ one mile per gallon
Sucking down Quarter Pounder cheese burgers from McDonald’s
In the old-fashioned, non-biodegradable styrofoam containers
And when I’m done sucking down those greaseball burgers
I’m gonna wipe my mouth with the American flag
And then I’m gonna toss the styrofoam containers right out the side
And there ain’t a goddamn thing anybody can do about it … “
Yes, there is. Vote.
For those concerned about the environment, cars are an ecological catastrophe, while the current president celebrates car ownership as a true hallmark of freedom for blue blooded Americans, and the US remains the “spiritual home of car culture”. Vote.
So are we doomed to live forever in a polarized country where there is a constant war for space on the road between people walking, on bikes, and driving, and over 40 thousand people die in automobile collisions each year?
Cars don’t have to own us.
Here’s something to think about as American cities (and yes, we in Asbury Park) try to figure out how to keep people safe while social distancing by opening streets to people walking, riding bikes, skateboards, scooters…there could be one good thing that comes out of Covid-19.
The spaces between parked cars can be for people, not for car domination. It’s so in cities where drivers don’t rule the roads. As one Face Book commenter in the thread notes, when he drives into one of these streets he “immediately wonders whether he should be there, then sees the benefits to everyone, and drives slowly and cautiously to his destination”. With American car culture could this happen here, or would we continue to see angry, entitled drivers claiming their right to the road, endangering us all?
Banning cars. This is BIG news. Cars banned on 14th St. NYC. In the wake of 18 bicyclist deaths and thousand of pedestrian deaths, the city is finally following lead of cities all over the world where cars are being marginalized in favor of people in pedestrian plazas and on walkable streets. Ever since the era of Robert Moses in the 1930’s we’ve been habituated to the belief that cars should own streets, roads, and highways. But the tide is turning. Asbury Park gets it. #streetsforpeople #toomanycars #VISIONZERO
The city takes its crackdown on cars to 14th Street, a crosstown route for 21,000 vehicles a day, which will be virtually off limits.
Asbury Park Complete Streets Coalition wishes everyone a safe and healthy 2019. Enjoy this collection of articles about what’s happening to make streets safe for people in cities all over the US and the world.
APCSC supports Strong Towns and has also adopted #SLOWTHECARS. We couldn’t have said it better: Why Slow the Cars?
Strong Towns advocates for financial solvency and productive land use in American cities. Places that are built for people, using traditional development patterns, can help us achieve both of those goals. On the other hand, neighborhood streets with wide lanes, huge clearance zones and other dangerous design features cause thousands of pedestrian and car passenger deaths every year. Dangerous roads do not make productive use of our land or our lives. Furthermore, they depress investment in our cities by making our neighborhoods less pleasant places to be.
People are the indicator species of success. We know that pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods are more economically productive, healthier and safer. We need to build places where people want to be.
THE BEST OF STRONG TOWNS 2018
“Cities around the world are using flexible and short-term projects to advance long-term goals related to street safety, public space, and more.”
APCSC and other Complete Streets advocates believe that streets are for people. We know that even with best intentions cities sometimes miss opportunities, or are financially challenged to effect changes away from car-centric streets. We can get creative to make streets into places for people: for health, for social well-being, for the environment, and for economic benefit.
Tactical Urbanism is all about action. Also known as DIY Urbanism, Planning-by-Doing, Urban Acupuncture, or Urban Prototyping, this approach refers to a city, organizational, and/or citizen-led approach to neighborhood building using short-term, low-cost, and scalable interventions to catalyze long-term change.
Learn about it:
Streets were once considered public spaces, places for people, but have become dominated by cars, and streets designed for speedy traffic flow. Now people are marginalized, called “pedestrians” and those walking outside of painted lines are demonized as “jaywalkers”, and blamed if they are injured or killed.
THE WEAPONIZATION OF JAYWALKING
“Before the advent of the automobile, users of city streets were diverse and included children at play and pedestrians at large. By 1930, most streets were primarily motor thoroughfares where children did not belong and where pedestrians were condemned as ‘jaywalkers’.”