Sunday, February 04, 2007

If I could change the world...

...this is what I'd do: I'd make its cities car-free.

In my last post I wrote about wanting to move close to downtown to a pedestrian neighborhood. Then a few days ago, the results of a California study were published which showed that kids growing up near congested urban corridors ended up having compromised lung capacity for the rest of their lives, causing asthma, other respiratory illnesses, and low resistance to pneumonia.

Of course this revelation stopped me in my tracks, and I've been spending a lot of time researching this topic on the internet. That's how I found J.H. Crawford, author of the book "Carfree."

Crawford loves to describe Venice, Italy- a busy, thriving example of a car-free city. Italians call it "Il Serenissima", the serene one. It is an amazingly stress-free urban environment.

Vancouver, B.C. is a city well-appreciated by visitors from all over the world. Its Director of Central Area Planning, Larry Beasley, offers this famous observation, "If you design an environment for children, it will work for everyone." If we in the U.S. had measured cars against this yardstick before adopting them as the default method of transportation in urban areas, we would have decided to avoid cars at any cost.

Accidents involving cars is the leading cause of death for children in the U.S. It is unsafe for children to walk, bike, or ride in cars. The pollution resulting from cars has resulted in rampant respiratory disease and cancer. (The cancer rates from car exhaust is increased sixfold in high traffic areas.)

Areas that have been cleared to make endless roadways for cars have resulted in obvious blight. The car culture has taken people off the streets, changing the social landscape. We fight wars to protect our oil supplies. Global warming is a now undeniable phenomenon.

Cities really could be designed around public transit, biking and walking, with ALL cars parked in large garages at the city's edge. Subways and streetcars could efficiently shuttle people around. For freight transportation, standard sea containers along with small, low impact freight bikes and battery-powered carts are perfect.

I am frustrated. I wish I could DO something to bring about carfree cities, and I feel powerless. How many people really care about this? Am I alone? Any suggestions?

19 comments:

Desiree said...

Wow! You've certainly made me look at cars in a whole new light! One more thing to add if one lived in a carfree city one would probably have no trouble staying in great shape too!

Betty said...

Dear Desiree,

That's exactly right. It would be a more natural way of life- people would stay in shape by going about their daily activities. Pricey health clubs would go out of business!

Hugs,
Betty

Desiree said...

Well, I'm sold. Let's start building!

I bet if we knew the right people we could get an experimental city like that built!

bddzsblr said...

Sounds utopian. I would vote for such a city. What a wonderful place that would be to live for a multitude of reasons. Something to think about.

Betty said...

Yep, Desiree, it would just take getting the right people on board. I strongly suspect that LOTS of people would support a carless city.

Hugs,
Betty

Betty said...

Dear bddzsblr,

Your reaction doesn't surprise me. I think many of us are ready to move on from the age of the automobile (before it's too late). In the 1950's, every city had streetcars! The tracks were torn up because of pressure from the auto industry! What an outrage!

Hugs,
Betty

surjit said...

yes, the incidence of deaths due to careless driving and increase in population is increasing day by day.Your concern for this important aspect is commendable.My good wishes.

Betty said...

Dear Surjit,

Thank you for your good wishes and agreement. If more of us think about the impact of cars, maybe change will come.

Hugs,
Betty

Sideways Chica said...

I would love to be carefree and carfree -- in an environment where one can be carefree and carfree. So, vote me in!

Speaking of voting...did you by any chance see the sidebar on my site about the nominations. I am nominated for best writing and most thought provoking. The semi finalast voting ends today. If you haven't already, can you hit the "Share the Love Blog Award" link on my site and cast your vote my way. I would like this for my book proposal. Editors like to see this sort of thing...then they don't have to actually read what people send their way. ;)

Ciao bella...good luck on carfree and carefree.

Betty said...

Dear Teri,

I voted for you. Good luck!

Hugs,
Betty

Kurt said...

You are certainly not alone!

Thulasi said...

you are right

Betty said...

Dear Kurt,

Good. Change is imminent, then.

Hugs,
Betty

Betty said...

Dear Thulasi,

Thank you for the simple and direct validation.

Hugs,
Betty

Sideways Chica said...

Dear Betty...I made it to the finals. Thank you for your vote. Kacey tells me I MUST campaign now, so here goes:

If you haven't already voted for the finals of the "Share the Love" blog awards, I would like to ask for your vote in the Best Writing and Most Thought Provoking categories. Either award would go up front and center in my book proposal for those hard to reach editors who love seeing awards! Also, thank you for all your support, encouragement and participation over at my place. You are special chica. Also, if you vote for me...no new taxes. Honest. Read my lips. The link is up on my sidebar. ;)

Ciao for now...I'm still thinking about being carfree and carefree.

Betty said...

Dear Teri,

CONGRATULATIONS!!! I hope you win in both categories. You've got my votes!!

Hugs,
Betty

Lisa said...

Betty,

I live near Manhattan, and there doesn't seem to be an overabundance of lung cancer deaths there...and LA is even worse smogwise, because there's no place for the fumes from all the vehicles to escape or for the air to be cleaned (being surrounded by mountains and the scarcity of rain). And I don't think many Californians are dropping from lung cancer, either!

Although a carless city would be wonderful (I would live there), the reality is that the only thing that you can do is try to take care of yourself as best as you can, and when your time is up, it's up. Personally, if I start worrying about things I can't control, it puts me in a depression! So I just put it into God's hands in the present, and try to reach my goals for the future (which, as you know, include living in the country--ahh, fresh air)!

Betty said...

Dear Lisa,

I was starting to draw a similar conclusion. There's going to be some kind of health hazzard wherever you live, so you might as well enjoy life and not focus on the negatives. The city I live in has a very high smog level, one of the highest in the country, and whether or not I live downtown, that level is going to be elevated. I think I'm going to not worry about that.

Hugs,
Betty

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