Ok, firstly…none of the above photos are from the small city in which I live (nor am I speaking of the video game with the same title as this post)…but we still have our share of traffic jams. I’ve been thinking about the amount of cars on the road a lot lately. Actually for recent years, but specifically in the last few months. There are so many angry drivers on the road and I can’t help but think it is simply because there are way too many cars in use. Think about it (if you are of a certain age)…when I was a kid families had a car…one single car. Some didn’t own any. My parents didn’t get a car until they were in their forties, when I was a mere lad of 12. We lived in the city and walked or took public transport. But today every person in a household who is above driving age seems to “need” their own car. How often, for example, do you see cars that are carrying more than the driver (and maybe one passenger)…not very often. I don’t anyway. Anyhow, this is what I was thinking about as I was on a bike at a busy intersection tonight watching all the cars pass by with only the driver in them, and then one of them honked at me to get off the road. But the best part was that it was raining lightly and I was content to straddle my bike in the drizzle and wait for the light to change (it has not rained in so long that it felt really good)…and then I was honked at. Sorry for the brief rant; I’ll get off my little soapbox now. If you find this topic interesting you may be interested in these articles: here, here, or here.
MBA: Highway Removal from Streetfilms on Vimeo.
I came across this video this morning on Treehugger and it really struck a nerve with me. It’s in regards to highways cutting through cities: why we don’t need them and the destruction they leave in their wake. I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions that I am writing from Buffalo, NY…a small city, but it’s getting smaller (population) each year. It is quite literally half the size in population that it was 50 years ago. Anyhow, what struck a nerve in me–and to get to the point–is that like many American cities mine has a few hiways circumnenting them, but also one that cuts it directly in two. For a small city we have such beautiful park space…but it was once more beautiful. The park system was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, who was most famous, I think, for designing Central Park in NYC (among numerous others). Anyhow, one of the parks–Humboldt Park–was shortened greatly by the Kensington Expressway. The park still remains, but the pan handle is gone.
The highway was completed in the late 1960’s (I think). I grew up in a neighborhood that was close to the construction (but not near Humboldt Park). I don’t have many memories of it being built, but one I do remember is–ironically–riding a bicycle down it at night. They worked around the clock building it (time is money) and had flood lights at night, and one memory is the construction workers allowing a gang of us to ride our bikes down the unopened highway at night (in my minds memory it seemed really late, but being just a boy it was probably only like 9pm). I also remember my mother telling me stories of when she was a little girl the “rich people” would ride horses through Humboldt Park (how perfect…two miles long and narrow)…now we just drive cars down it.
I can’t image how terrible it must have been for the people who own the many beautiful houses that line the highway. Oddly (and almost cruelly) in an effort to make it seem less ugly the city actually submerged the highway, which in my opinion is uglier still. So these people when from having beautiful park-front homes to owning a house whose front yard now faces a submerged highway. This isn’t just ugly; it’s the anti-beauty of the urban landscape. This highway has made it really easy–to this day–for people to flee the city, for good or just daily; to work downtown and race back to their subdivisions at 5pm. Here’s a couple before-and-after pictures (found here and here). It’s easy to see which makes more sense on so many levels. In a city that has such a rich cultural and architectural heritage…shame on us for allowing this to happen.