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Re-Thinking Cars In Our Cities

Probably most of you have seen and hopefully read this Op-Ed in the April 30th New Mexican, which is a reprint from the April 25th New York Times. No, it doesn’t particularly talk about the need for bicycles per se but rather the results of our obsession with urban planning focused on the needs of cars and how to get them and their drivers where ever could possibly want to go.

Interestingly, today’s, New York Times, has another op-ed that discusses Los Angeles citizens taking back their neighborhood street and turning it into a playground for kids. “Los Angeles Tests the Power of ‘Play Streets’ in the Art and Design section of the April 30th New York Times.

What we find interesting about both of these articles are two themes: 1) the streets belong to all of the people, not just drivers; 2) that citizens are realizing the huge costs to their social well being that they are paying in order to accommodate all cars and trucks, all the time.

To put this in local perspective think of the last several months worth of Pasatiempo issues that have run pictures of Santa Fe from the turn of the century through the ’20s and 30’s. Notice how the buildings and thoroughfares all seemed to make sense? How they fit to one another? Maybe this is because the scale of the low buildings, the sidewalks and indeed roads were appropriate to the needs of the pedestrians and horses seen in those photos. Even once cars began to appear they were few and relatively speaking, small devices. Certainly compared to now.

Inevitably, these same articles seem to always include references to John Gaw Meem and that we have him to thank for “preserving” the look of the City Different. Indeed. Sadly, however it appears that Santa Fe kept the design regimen for the architecture but has never really considered how to keep the community as a whole, human-focused, save the Plaza itself. Instead, we hear and read about citizens complaining about not being able to park in front of their favorite store… for free.

Maybe it is time “we” in Santa Fe more fully consider Mr. Meem’s “laws” of keeping Santa Fe- Santa Fe- and extend his ideas throughout the downtown, if only as an experiment. What if we were to ban cars and parking on the streets on weekends, except to drive directly to and park at, the various hotels? This could easily be done by turning the State’s parking lots into community free-parking lots on Saturdays and Sundays.

Would we rediscover the beauty of our City? Appreciate anew just what it was the John Gaw Meem bequeathed us with his design guidelines? Would we strengthen our sense of social community and pride? Increasingly feel the benefits of exercise and healthier cleaner air over time? Would the camaraderie of the Plaza and the Palace of Governors radiate for blocks on all sides once people were not hemmed in by the endless lines of cars and trucks impatiently circulating our quaint narrow streets?

We think it sure would be great to find out! And best of all it would cost nothing to do so other than a few road barriers. Everything else is already in place.


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