A Matter of Priorities
February 20, 2015

I hope you are keeping warm. We are having some winter snow and ice down here in Arkansas, but it is nothing comparable to what has been happening in the north east!

I was wondering around Oak Street, our main street that runs through downtown, 24 hours after the sleet fell on Monday and most of it had been cleared. This was a typical scene;

To clear the sidewalk or the travel lanes on our main street? It's a matter of priorities.

It's not that the one pitiful narrow strip we allocate to people was the only part of the street that was still slick that disturbed me, but when I saw a few business owners outside scraping the ice off in front of their shop. We will spend public money on sanding and plowing the vast majority of the street which is dedicated solely to cars, while the little strip to the side that is dedicated to people is considered the responsibility of the property owners. Why are we instilling the idea that cars are a greater priority than people?

The irony here is that cities are just a collection of people - Wikipedia defines a city as a human settlement. To prioritize anything other than people signifies a place that is more out of touch with reality than the imaginary world of Dr Seuss.

The logic behind most of the places we build today is far crazier than this. (Whoville from the movie adaption of Horton Hears a Who!)

In 'Some perspective on the gas tax,' Chuck said;

Congestion-free roadways and ample parking are to the United States what bread and circuses were to Rome. Get out your fiddle, that smoke is real.

Engineered for congestion-free roadways and ample parking. We can chase our tails doing this, but at the end of the day we will never have a pleasant place for people - so what's the point?

Build more roads and you will induce more traffic. Make it faster to get around, things will spread further out, and people will drive more. Zone for isolation, separation, and car dependence and that is the sort of place we will get. Build a pleasant place for people, and a reason to be there, and we will get people.

Downtown Vail, Colorado built a pleasant place for people. Every town can do this. Despite virtually everyone who visits Vail drives their car there - they did not use it as an excuse to not build a place for people.

If we don't change our habits, our obsession with treating cars as the dominant life-form of our cities, catering to their every needs with congestion-free roadways and ample parking, will be the downfall of American cities. They are our bread and circuses. We know it's making us broke, and we still continue. It does not have to be this way - it is just a matter of priorities.

The most dangerous phrase in the language is, "We've always done it this way."
— Grace HopperCitation1