An recent op-ed the Sacramento Bee had an interesting angle on some of the traffic and transportation issues facing many parts of the U.S., including Northfield.
We’re stuck with the landscape we’ve built over the past 60 years, much of which is literally uninhabitable without a car. Trying to make our communities less car-dependent simply by adding more buses, streetcars and light rail is like trying to make a bowl of chicken soup vegan simply by picking the chicken out.
The author goes on to explain how our built environment has stacked the deck in favor of the individual automobile, at the expense of community, human health, and the environment. He points out, “Cities and suburbs throughout Western Europe have proven for decades that people will choose walking, bicycling and public transit over personal cars if the price is right and the trip is pleasant.”
But unlike more militant voices, he doesn’t take a hard line against cars per se, instead focusing what we can regain by re-thinking the design of our cities and towns.
… how we use cars, how we plan our economies and communities around cars, and even how we build cars, all have to change. . . Millions upon millions of Europeans are living rich, modern lives without requiring a private car to meet their most basic needs. They’re in communities that function perfectly well with gasoline three times the price as at our pumps, and with the resilience to continue thriving if prices doubled tomorrow. How many places in America can say the same?
He concludes with the point that the way things were built prior to the mid-20th century may also make good sense in how we handle the increasing cost of oil and the fact that it’s a finite resource which is running out.
One of the things I’ve always appreciated about Northfield is the fact that most of it was built to what has come to be called “human scale”, without the speed and enclosure of automobiles to skew our sense of distance. This community is geographically compact, which gives us several advantages IF we make wise decisions about transportation and land use going forward.
What do you think of this whole idea? How is Northfield better or less prepared than other parts of the country to embrace changes like this?
Read the full article here, and come back to comment.