Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Car Free Day is today

In honor of World Car Free Day and the first full year of service for the Capital Bikeshare program in DC and Arlington County, Virginia, there will be an event at Yards Park, from 6pm to 9pm tonight. There will be beer, moonbounces, free tee shirts to the first 1,000 people, and other stuff--hopefully it won't rain.

The Post also has a blog story, "Area drivers pledge to go car-free today," and a Dr. Gridlock column, "Car-free, car-lite or on the road as normal? What's your pledge?," which reports that 11,000 people pledged to be car free today--not much I know...

Plus this piece on the bikesharing program, "Mental health study tries Capital Bikeshare as therapy."

On the other hand, in honor of World Car Free Day, the Washington Examiner has an editorial about how cars promote freedom and mobility, "Automobiles gave Americans mobility, prosperity and greater freedom."

-- How to Live Well Without Owning a Car by Chris Balish.

I'm not going to say that isn't true, but it can come at a much greater cost to society, because in this case individual freedom as a result of the car usually is associated with great costs for the group, be it the impacts of automobility on land use, the environment, general health, personal health, especially obesity, etc.
Image caption: The Baltimore and Washington areas are the two smoggiest cities on the East Coast, according to a report released Wednesday. Stefan Zaklin/Getty Images.

Of course, one reason that the Examiner probably has a hard time balancing the benefits to the individual at the cost of the group is that the newspaper's owner made his original fortune on oil production...

So it's interesting that two other articles in the same paper discuss problems that result from rampant automobility, "Baltimore, D.C. among nation's smoggiest cities" and the editorial "Transit-oriented paradox in Tysons Corner," which doesn't address directly the fact that it will be expensive to retrofit Tysons Corner for walkability, because the type of road-based automobile-focused development pattern that typified the area "forgot" to accommodate other modes, such as by not providing sidewalks and through routes for pedestrians.

Plus, today's Washington Post has an article about the amount of out-of-county travel in the Washington region, mostly by car, to get to work, Census: More Maryland and Virginia drivers commute to another county than other people in the U.S.

And even though there are serious flaws with the methodology, which is focused on studying freeway congestion mostly, not intra-city mobility (see Driven Apart: Why sprawl, not insufficient roads, is the real cause of traffic congestion from CEO for Cities), the DC area ranks #2 in the nation for traffic congestion, according to the annual report on Urban Mobility by the Texas Transportation Institute.

How much mobility and prosperity do you really have when you spend so much time sitting in traffic?

At least on transit you can read, and if you are walking or biking to get to and from place to place, you get exercise too.

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