Wednesday, January 6, 2010
In the modernist utilitarian view of urban environments, streets are for transporting people efficiently.
While, there is no doubt that urban environments should have efficient modes of transport, in the process of achieving this goal we have eliminated the other factors that made streets more than just a pathway to get from one place to another. Most humans detest being trapped in a traffic jam. However, few wonder how we arrived at this point and every fewer contemplate the means to eliminate this blight on urban places. The solution which is posed, even though there is lip service to creating a more balanced transportation system, is new roads, increased lanes, more fuel efficient, more power and smarter vehicles with such things as GPS. These are over all tactics to keep Urban society addicted to the automobile. It is an addiction that vehicle manufactures, petroleum companies, lawyers, car sales companies, vehicle repair firms, insurance firms, the construction industry, the housing industry and others nurture. It is a sticky web which society can not free itself. The spider of unstainability is devouring its drugged victim. Is there a way to extract urban society? Yes, but it will not be a technological fix such as a miracle battery for automobiles or hydrogen cars. It will not be invading or controlling countries to gain access to their resources. A new mindset is developing, but being put on the sidelines by decision-makers. The “voice in the wilderness” can be heard in non-profits promoting “green “ alternatives, protesters at international conferences, and citizens in local council meetings reminding politicians about the importance of quality urban life. However, the pressure to keep the status quo by mult-nationals is extremely powerful, but preventing society from wrenching itself from the automobile with all its detrimental factors.
Streets in many parts of the world and some in the U.S., can be exciting places—full of social interaction. They are the antithesis of what modern utilitarian urban planners wound desire. They are places with narrow streets, misty congested and not efficient for carrying vehicles. The real conflict is not the congestion of people, but the intrusion of vehicles. There is a certain wonder of wandering around in the narrow streets of European and Latin America cities: hearing the sounds of people walking, smelling food being cooked in houses and restaurants, going by a cafe and seeing people talking, meeting friends by accident, and making acquaintance with those that have different experiences that enlighten you. This is what we have lost via the world wide addition to the automobile. Can we get it back?
This photo is of a street in Rio de Janeiro. You can notice the activity of pedestrians However, what is obvious is the congestion of automobiles. This essentially ruins the purpose of this street which shooed be only for pedestrians In the area there are many streets that could serve for automobile access to this area. There is no need for vehicular presence in this area.