Car Free Week

24 Sep

Turns out that last week was Car Free Week!  Who would have thought?  I didn’t know until a couple of days ago.  And that’s telling.  A number of cities and states in the U.S., and many more in other countries, do all sorts of things to encourage people to get out of their cars and onto transit, bicycles, their feet, if not for an entire week, then at least for a day now and again.  Richmond and the state of Virginia, eh, not so much.  In this state, the localities, especially the cities, are much more likely to be forward-thinking about transportation, so maybe we can convince Richmond to take this on next year.  Click here and here for information on Car Free Week and Car Free Days.

The first of the two links is to an article with a video at the end showing a motorist following two cyclists on a rural road for what seems like an eternity, laying on the horn the whole time.  What strikes me most beyond the intensity of the motorist’s antipathy to cyclists is the relative calm of the guys on bikes.  I don’t know if I would have kept my cool for that long.

Photo by Phil Riggan, RIchmond.com.

But back to the topic of cars, commuting, and cities.  Last week also saw inaugural activities for Park(ing) Day in Richmond.  The basic idea is to take a little of the enormous space usually devoted to storing automobiles (and that space is proportionally really enormous in downtown Richmond) and turn it into a little urban oasis on some kind.  In many cities folks just put money in a parking meter and then set up a little lounging area or a place to play a game.  Richmond’s version on Main Street near VCU was more carefully coordinated with the city.

Grist has some photos of some of the creative things people in other cities came up with.  Another little sign of what could be a trend: not of banning cars, as some people seem to fear, but of starting a conversation about the incredible costs and relative inefficiency of our all-but exclusive focus on cars as transportation.

Parking for bicycles, in contrast to that for cars, takes up a lot less space, and can even contribute to public space in the form of artistic or sculptural racks.  Having already attracted attention for some earlier bike rack designs, David Byrne has come up with a cool idea for racks for the Brooklyn Academy of Music.  As home to the VMFA and one of the top-ranked schools in the country for sculpture, there’s no reason why Richmond shouldn’t have a bunch of such useful pieces of public art.

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