Cities. They fear for cars, they fear for driving and it turns out that their inhabitants tend to have a better life without the cars making noise, blocking everything and polluting everywhere. If you want examples of the good that eliminating cars can actually do for urban centers, check out this illuminating read from Next city.
The article highlights four main roads in four major cities, such as John F. Kennedy Drive in San Francisco, which became car-free seven days a week for the first time during the pandemic, and will remain so due to a measure vote which has just been adopted:
In April, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a motion keeping JFK Drive closed to cars, along with 40 improvements that would make the park more accessible to people with disabilities, seniors and others.
The 1.5-mile street in San Francisco’s famous Golden Gate State Park was then the subject of dueling ballot measures this month – Prop J would keep cars out and Prop I would reopen the street to motorized vehicles . Prop I supporters argued that permanently closing the driveway to cars would prevent people with disabilities from accessing the park. In the end, voters passed Proposition J with almost 60% “yes” votes and rejected Proposition I with over 60% “no” votes.
The argument that people with disabilities are excluded along with cars is a bit weak considering that the JFK Promenade project has already increased the number of ADA-compliant parking spaces available to visitors and installed a shuttle. It has also made life safer for pedestrians:
Jodie Medeiros, who leads pedestrian advocacy group Walk San Francisco, says car-free traffic at JFK is key to protecting pedestrians from vehicular traffic. “For two years, we’ve seen how much people not only love but really need this car-free space,” she told the San Francisco Chronicle. “JFK without a car is all about our safety.”
According to San Francisco Recreation and Parks, visits to the park have increased 36% since the closure, totaling nearly 7 million visits, while more than 90% of the streets in the park are still open to cars.
New York’s 34th Street—aka Paseo Park—has another example:
Launched at the start of the pandemic, the 34th Avenue Open Street Project was organized as part of New York’s Open Streets initiative. Neighborhood volunteers put up traffic barriers every morning and started organizing events, activities and games. This year, there are only 20 miles of streets open in the city, down from 83 miles.
The city’s Department of Transportation says the project reduced traffic violence involving pedestrians by a whopping 41.7 percent. A study conducted by Streetsblog showed a dramatic reduction in all car accidents.
Head toward Next city for the full story. I lived briefly in Brooklyn before the pandemic and didn’t take my car with me because it didn’t make much sense. I really missed driving it, but of course I wouldn’t have wanted to be in Brooklyn, and the time I spent there finally taught me to awall sorts of reasons why I’m not a city dweller. me too had the privilege of leaving the city if I wanted. For the lives of people who can’t or won’t, these are good steps.