Seattle’s “Car-Free” Sundays

by Venomous Kate

Seattle seems determined to convince everyone that it’s nickname “The Emerald City” really means it’s greener than thou. They’ve already switched to hybrid-powered public transportation and free curbside compost recycling, and now the city plans to implement car-free Sundays starting next month.

One problem: the news came as a bit of a surprise to businesses and residents of those “select” areas who had no idea their roads would be closed to cars from noon to 6 p.m. Restaurant owners were quick to point out that summer Sundays tend to be high-earning days, but the timing of the road closings might cost them business. Residents are of mixed opinion, with many wondering how they’d travel in the event of an emergency.

That’s not going to be a problem, according to the city’s mayor. Residents in the closed areas will be allowed to travel to/from their homes, and emergency travel will still be permitted. In the meantime he’s reminding everyone to “It’s just for one day, just chill. Get out of the car and walk.”

Initially, I read the news and felt my blood pressure jumping. How dare the government close down roads??? But then it dawned on me, well, why not? They’re the ones that put them there in the first place. Yes, residents pay taxes that get used to fund those roads but if you read the story you’ll realize the residents aren’t being deprived of the use of those roads. Those living in the neighborhood can continue to go about their regular day, while those who don’t live nearby will have to park and walk.

Big deal.

Personally, I’m an advocate of rethinking this sprawl-based culture we have. The culture that leads us to live far from where we work. The culture that places grocery stores, pharmacies and coffee shops miles away from residential clusters. The culture that moved schools out of neighborhoods, enlarging and weakening them in the process, and forced many parents to drive their kids to school. The culture that killed the corner bar.

I’ve long believed that sprawl is one of the primary reasons America is so overweight, and not just adults: sprawl is one of the reasons our kids are fat, too.

Yes, my first reaction to learning about Seattle’s green-y, tree-hugging idea to close certain city streets for a day was the typical knee-jerk reaction of any person who dislikes government interference. But then it dawned on me that for many of us, the only real exercise we get in our car-oriented lives comes from engaging in knee-jerk reactions to eco-friendly initiatives.

So what’s wrong with a city closing down a neighborhood for a day if it doesn’t deprive the area’s residents of their autonomy? Is that really a bad thing, or is it a sign that cities are beginning to realize, because their planning initiatives contributed to the problem of sprawl in the first place, it’s also their responsibility to do something to ameliorate its effects?

9 Responses to “Seattle’s “Car-Free” Sundays”

  1. It’s a tedious academic piece, but if you have the time to spare, Jerry Herron wrote “Detroit and the Humiliation of History.” It explores a lot about sprawl and how the city got killed by it.

    Jays last blog post..Afire with arrogance

  2. Yes, it’s stupid. They have no business wasting everyone’s time on this. It is not their job to cure fatness. It’s just a ridiculous ploy to look like they’re doing something, despite being completely ineffective and obnoxious. Sort of like airport screening.

    silvermines last blog post..Homeschooling Questions Answered

  3. Since most people own their homes, but change jobs more than once in a lifetime, it would not be practical for everyone to live near his place of employment. Unless they pass a law that one cannot take a job more than two miles from where they live, which I wouldn’t put past the interfering busybodies running things nowadays.

    Let people drive wherever they want, for God’s sake! If they don’t want to be obese, they can drive to the gym.

    miriams last blog post..A living substance

  4. It doesn’t need to be a law. It’s common sense. If a person takes a job far from where they live they run the risk of gas prices going up and their spendable income going down.

    Venomous Kates last blog post..Beedle the Bard Released For The Public

  5. Well, there’s far and there’s far. I’m 10.7 miles from my office. Twenty minutes if the traffic is worse than usual. And inasmuch as I get 21.4 mpg on average, I burn up one gallon of gas on the round trip. The bus is slightly cheaper, if I want to spend two and a half hours in transit instead of forty minutes. (Which, I hasten to add, I don’t.)

    CGHills last blog post..Fit for a queen

  6. I bought a house 18 miles from work. 2 miles from the drug store and 1 from the grocery. That decision was based on the availability to me and mine of the roads within two counties, four different cities and a federal highway. I have the opportunity to vote and pay taxes in about half of those entities. While the other half could ban travel through their region, and thus screw me out of access to their roads that I use to get to where I need to go, I do own a Jeep and would f-ing drive all over their country-side anyway. To close a public road to public traffic is a breach of faith deserving of ridicule and derision.

  7. The areas they’re closing are neighborhoods, not main thoroughfares.

    Venomous Kates last blog post..Beedle the Bard Released For The Public

  8. Thanks for your article, Now there is more reason to comment than ever before! This is a great fir for our project!

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