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Home > Magazine > City > Radical Humanizing of Cities: Solving the Car Problem?

Radical Humanizing of Cities: Solving the Car Problem?
May 17, 2014

This is a perennially cool topic.

I used to be involved with book publishing for all areas of engineering. One aspect that we never touched on, nor did I notice any publishing about, was the History of Engineering or the Social Critique of Engineering.

Politics never got into the Civil Engineering textbooks that I saw. In our own Intro texts I made sure that relevant sentences were included in the chapters on Ethics. Our publishing emphasis included academia, but I never saw a course that studied the social impact of highways included in the Civil Engineering department.

Now, I've long enjoyed making connections between things that few others seem to appreciate, but this seems silly. I assume that engineers are still trained to "leave politics to politicians," but one may well not want to be involved with building something that is wrong or bad or harmful even if it is done to code. What decent person wants to say they were just following orders? The main benefit of being a free and independent and cooperative human being is the ability to say No and Yes as you freely choose. Compartmentalization is evil in some cases.

I like the history of engineering.

So modern cities are dysfunctional. Or, they're mixed. It's everyone's duty to try to push the balance of the mixture to sustainable. ...Bikers included!

Tactical Urbanism is a campaign that is gaining steam these days. Here's a link: www.citylab.com/design/2012/03/guide-tactical-urbanism/1387/

It involves things like "park(ing)" -- the conversion of parking spaces into parks -- which can be done as protest or as permanent redesign.

The Cyclovia movement is probably also part of it: the occasional and temporary conversion of city streets to human use only.

Pedestrian Malls have been tried in various cities for decades. A downtown gets its main street closed to motor traffic in an attempt to humanize the space. Sometimes they've been a flop. What makes the difference between success and failure here?

Then there are the radicals. Or maybe it's just a new tactic by normal people: *insisting* on taking and *defending* their rights to streets and other civic space. It's not an option, they say. It's deadly combat. It's "stand your ground." We've been being murdered for 100 years and it's time it stops. Our cities have been used against us for far longer. It's time for a new vision.

The world's love affair with the car. Is it really so self-evident? Cars let us get around. It gives us economic and social options. Thus it's the winning form of transit the world over. ...Is that the whole story?

Without those options would we fail? Would not having a car really mean the difference between being able to contribute to a community and not? If so, that would be bad. If it meant that we'd have to "live where we live," that might be good.

Is the "cities for people" movement so crazy?

I suppose it is part of the fight between Communism and the One Man Who Has All The Power.

It's part of Occupy. Occupy got traction with its idea of the 1%ers. ...The 1%ers aren't at all happy about even the 1%. They are fighting each other to the death the world over. 1% is WAY TOO MANY people sharing the weath. The dynamic involved points to ONE MAN WITH IT ALL. It's called competition. Free marketeers say competition produces the best for the most. But markets are never free and the owners of markets fight to the death, literally. One tries to defeat all the others. There is no effective deterrent to the trend of consolidation of power within one system. It really is "war all the time." Within Communism as well is a constant fight to the death.

But there hasn't even been a contest on many occasions in the status of the city or in the situation of the car in America, for instance. Today, though, combatants are appearing on the horizon.

Here's a link to an article and website that strike it with clear notes:

rebelmetropolis.org/portland-welcome-to-americas-parking-capital/


Tactical urbanism... "Park(ing)" -- the creation of parks instead of parking spaces. Sometimes temporary, sometimes permanent.

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