Category Archives: Other

Quick Take: Cars ≠ Freedom

I came across this passage on BostonBiker.org.  The post addresses two main issues that author has with cars.  While coming from a cyclist’s perspective, the post raised points relevant to anybody seeking a more rational approach to our cities.

I though the second passage of the post, on the mistaken idea that cars=freedom, was worth posting in full.  If you enjoy it, and/or have comments, please leave them on the Boston Biker site.   I’m just a messenger.


Human beings have evolved over the eons to favor things that make their lives easy, and shy away from those that make them hard. We are literally wired to enjoy things like sugar, fat, and salty foods, mostly because in the stone age we could never get enough of these foods so evolution wired our brains to search out these “easy” sources of calories. We use our big ol’ frontal lobes to come up with all sorts of ideas to make our lives easy. Farming, domestication of animals, automation, computers, cars…the list goes on and on. Evolution rewards (to a point) those humans that were able to “live the good life” by getting enough food and shelter, because those people had the most kids.

Cars (and more importantly car companies) tap right into that part of us that is seeking out the easier way. Why walk for weeks when you can get in your car and drive there in a day? Why ride your bike for days when you can drive your car there in a couple hours? Why walk for an hour to the store, when you can drive in a couple minutes? And you wonder why there is an obesity crisis?

People are not lazy per-say, they are simply falling victim to the wiring in their head. People don’t get fat because they eat too much, they get fat because we live in a modern world of plenty, but their brains are identical to the stone age hunters that had a very hard time getting food. Their brains tell them to eat lots of salty, sugary, fatty foods, and their bodies are designed to store that up for the hard times, they simply had the bad luck to live in a world FULL of these kinds of food. They suffer from a common problem in modern world, our brains and bodies are not set up for the modern world we have created.

The car culture feeds into that trap. It allows us if we so choose to spend our whole lives without walking a significant distance promoting obesity, and weakness. It allows (and encourages) the development of suburbs, and exurbs, and whatever comes after that, that destroy communities and encourage loneliness. It encases us in a little metal shell that promotes road rage (you don’t feel so bad about honking at the anonymous person in the other car, but would never act that way in an elevator). These are the kinds of things they don’t talk about in car commercials.

Even if you throw out all the physical and psychological negative effects on the human body you are still forced to contend with the fact that cars take up a lot of space. Much of the area in a modern city is dedicated to roads and car parking. Much of that land was taken from things like parks, sidewalks, green space, etc. Putting one person in one car, and then doing that a couple thousand times and your nice wide four lane roads suddenly don’t seem large enough anymore. Lets tear down some buildings and build more roads! Then people see the “ease” at which you can get around, so a couple hundred more people buy cars, and low and behold your 8 lane highway isn’t big enough anymore. Lets try a 16 lane highway! Damn that filled up too, better go with 32! Before long you end up with something like this:

Cars are sold as a luxury, as a path to freedom, to something that will make your life better! But in reality you can’t democratize a luxury. What I mean, is that not everyone can have a luxury item, or else it stops being a luxury and starts being a necessity. Cars are no longer a luxury in many places of this country, in a lot of places if you don’t have a car, you can’t get to the store, or to your job, or to school. Our cities have been designed in a such a horrible way that some people are forced to spend a large part of their work week earning enough money to power the car that gets them to work. Yet car commercials still show a lone traveler speeding through the empty city streets without a hint of traffic in sight.

In short, it’s a lie. The car companies sell freedom and mobility, but in fact offer only gridlock, poor land use, health problems, and global warming.

So what?

So what are we to do? If the “one car one person”, model has failed so fully what do we do to reverse it? The answer is simple, but is going to require a lot of effort. We need to stop designing our lives around cars. That means everything from removing on-street parking, building larger sidewalks, making people pay more for parking, building dense cities, providing good public transportation, and getting more people to ride bikes!

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Walk this Way: Jane’s Walk Phoenix is profiled in Sunset

What started with a Twitter conversation with a somewhat incredulous magazine editor (you mean people actually WALK in Phoenix?!?) almost six months ago has finally become a reality. The current (January 2010) issues of Sunset magazine includes a feature on a Jane’s Walk Phoenix. The article covers why I brought the walk to Phoenix as well as some of the encouraging developments in out downtown core. It also mentions Artlink Phoenix‘s First Friday Art Walk, the Morin House, Modified Arts; features a photograph of cycling ‘bodega’ HoodRide in Roosevelt Row; and highlights comments from my friends (and walk participants)  Catrina Knoebl and Jeremy Mudd.

Special thanks go to editor-at-large Allison Arieff for writing the great article, and photographer David Fenton for the amazing photographs. I would also like to thank all of those who participated in the Jane’s Walk event in May 2009 as well as those who came out for the photo shoot in September; the event and the article would not have been a success without you. Plans are already under way for Jane’s Walk 2010, with an expanded slate of events, including a ‘Jane’s Ride.’

You can check out some scanned pages of the article below, but I strongly suggest you make a trip down to the local magazine rack and pick up a copy for yourself. Sunset is a great publication deserving of your support. Besides, in addition to the feature on Jane’s Walk, this month’s issue has a lot of cool content, including a short profile of Helen and Jan of Sweet Republic ice cream.

This article has been cross-posted on my personal website, yuriartibise.com.

From Car Spaces to People Places: Park(ing) Day is coming to Phoenix

pd2009_poster_commemorativeFollowing up on the successful Jane’s Walk Phoenix in May, a couple of friends and I are organizing another ‘place making’ event on Friday, September 18th.

PARK(ing) Day is an annual, one-day, global event that promotes the importance of green and urban public spaces as community activists, neighborhood leaders and urban planners step up to the curb, put a quarter in the meter, and proceed to transform curbside metered parking spots into temporary public parks. The event is intended to help people rethink the way we use our streets and creates diverse conversations about how we can make sustainable cities. This concept of PARK(ing) Day is based on the idea that putting money into a parking meter is like ‘renting’ a public space.

Jane Jacobs, in The Death and Life of Great American Cities wrote that, in order to make a city safe, prosperous and worth living in, one must start with “lively and interesting streets.” With this end in mind, Park(ing) Day PHX is an opportunity to create community, engage the public and begin a dialogue on topics ranging from city parks and public space to the environment to mobility options and community improvement projects.

The Park(ing) Day PHX spaces will be located adjacent to ASU Downtown, on 1st St. between Polk St. and Fillmore St. between 7 and 9 a.m.

PARK(ing) Day was originally created in 2005 by Rebar, a San Francisco-based art and design studio, as an experimental exploration in repurposing public space. Since then has been creatively adapted and sparked imaginations around the world.

For more details on Park(ing) Day in general, visit www.ParkingDay.org or contact me via email.

If you living in Phoenix, I hope you can stop by and support us. You can RSVP on Facebook or Yelp.

Here are some pictures from past Park(ing) Day events in other cities.

Clevland 2006

Cleveland 2006

Los Angles, 2008

Spokane, 2007

Brooklyn, 2006

Brooklyn, 2006

Stay tuned for pictures from the inaugural Phoenix event!

[Cross-posted on YuriArtibise.com]

Mr. Roosevelt

Here’s a great profile on somebody who exemplifies the spirit of Jane Jacobs, especially her focus on community building and grass roots activism.

Some extracts:

“Antonio combines a deep affection for his small village upbringing in Honduras with a cosmopolitan flair,”…. “What has most impressed me is his ability to bring the sense of community and love of nature he imbibed as a child into his efforts to build community and a sense of place in larger cities such as Phoenix.” 

 

“I have always been intrigued by cities,” he says. “How cities grow, how cities develop, how people’s relationships are affected by the growth of the city and how people live in the city.” 

 

HT: Downtown Phoenix Journal

Downtown Phoenix Civic Space Grand Opening, April 16

The Downtown Civic Space is one of the sites that will be featured on the May 2 Walk, but I encourage you to get a first peek of it this Thursday, April 16 beginning at 11 a.m.  between 11 and 1, there will be a BBQ for first 1,000 attendees rock wall, red-bull pong and other games.   The formal Park dedication Ceremony will start at 3, and the  lighting of the Art Feature will be at 7:30.

This will be a great opportunity to check out the park, the recently completed Art Feature  and meet other peopleinterestred in downtown Phoenix.

The event is beling sponsored by ASU students and PRSA