As somewhat of an anti–“smart growth” groupie, I try to keep up with their various online writings. Everyday, it’s like finding buried treasure. Take yesterday, for example, which gave us gems such as racial explanations for the lack of minority bike-share use to this article about the battle raging between the somewhat-more-sensible greeniac landscape urbanists and the urban form–obsessed New Urbanists.
But this Streetsblog post from today really stood out. Often mocked as Luddites by those with a more libertarian outlook on land-use and transportation policy, it appears that smart-growthers may be starting to embrace the change-resistant biases once held by their great-great-grandparents who developed these mindsets upon seeing horseless carriages for the first time. The only difference is that their great-great-grandparents eventually came around to comprehend the huge mobility benefits that occurred following the rise in American auto ownership.
Judging by the recent media backlash against a few bike lanes in New York City, you would think that roads have been the exclusive domain of cars since time immemorial.
Not so, as Peter D. Norton recounts in his book, “Fighting Traffic — The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City.” When cars first entered cities in a big way in the early 20th Century, a lot of people were not happy about it — like angry-mob not happy.
People were shocked by the carnage that resulted from motor vehicle crashes and outraged by new restrictions imposed on pedestrians. Newspapers of the time overwhelmingly sided against drivers, Norton writes.
Oh, if only angry mobs of New Urbanists had been around to correct the behavior (if you know what I mean) of car-owning deviants. We could have been spared the inhumanity of those who desire to go farther in less time, for less money, in order to improve their standard of living and increase their social opportunities. The best part is when the Streetsblog author laments that roads are no longer used in the same way as they had been “for thousands of years.” Curse you, technology, wealth, and progress!