Monday, June 11, 2007

Way Too Many Cars Here, For Sure
Our Town downtown
June 11, 2007

I don’t hate cars. Nobody does. A letter to the editor in this issue even points out that Al Gore rode in cars to his various readings around town a couple weeks ago. Cars are a remarkable invention, honed over the decades to fit us in so comfortably behind the wheel that even the clumsiest of us seem to coordinate feet, eyes and hands well enough that we get to our destination without causing a wreck. You wouldn’t think that was possible after watching people waddle and veer as they ‘walk’ along the sidewalks here. Somehow behind the wheel they waddle and veer less. Go figure.

I miss having a car sometimes. I have listened to almost no music since I moved here nine years ago. The car was where my tunes were. How can you listen to Bruce Springsteen sitting in your apartment anyway? You have to go through the gears on some of the best tunes to get everything out of them. Think the triumphant Jerry Maguire screaming ‘Free Fallin’’.

Too many cars in a small area is a bad scene though. New York City is too small an area for all the cars that come in here every day.

Last week a buddy came in by car from Connecticut to take me to breakfast on my birthday. The rigmarole he went through to try to find a place to park on the street near my apartment was nuts, a stupid way to spend time. The drive to find a place in a parking garage was a wander. When we did find one, the guy waved us off; he was full already at 7:30. We begged him and he let us stay for two hours while we ate. After breakfast, my friend said he‘d give me a ride to work. No going. He had to drop me off three blocks away from the office, so heavy was the traffic. Later after work my kids were coming to get me for a birthday dinner. They called to say they’d be late because of the traffic on the avenues and the cross-streets in the Village.

So who can not be for some version of Mayor Bloomberg’s adoption of London’s charging drivers who want to go into the business/busyness area of the city? People think it’s a bold plan on the mayor’s part. It was bold for London mayor. Once you saw it worked there, how could a New York City mayor not try it? I like Mike, but it takes no genius to follow a leader who’s figured out a way to lessen a major problem. He’d have been a fool not to propose this.

It has to happen. Some version of it. Do I like the idea that it’ll take all sorts of movie cameras to monitor it? Of course not, who does? But what are you going to do? Outlaw cars and make it look like that little area by the river in San Antonio that they always show during Spurs games? You want some cars. Wouldn’t you rather have cars going by than a street fair in your neighborhood every day? I would. Cars and their movement give some energy and pace to the place. But they have to be controlled.

One thing I’d like to see happen if the number of cars is reduced in the city is for the street light patterns to change. One of the maddening things about living here, without a car, in a city that gets pats on the back for being a great walking city, is to have the street lights timed so that if you walk at a normal pace you get stopped at every corner as you walk along the avenues. It can drive you nuts if you have to go far, especially if you walk the same route every day. You find yourself breaking into a trot every few blocks just to break the pattern. But the pattern gets you again the next block.

Oh, and one more thing; while the mayor’s putting up the cameras to catch the scofflaws, I wish he’d order as many more cameras as it takes to monitor the speed of all the cars in the city. It is unconscionable how fast some cabs and other cars go up and down the streets here.

Bill Gunlocke

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