In the latest issue of the World Carfree News E-Bulletin, comes word of the New York City based Transportation Alternatives, a group whose mission is to reclaim New York City’s streets from the automobile, and to be an advocate for the concept that bicycling, walking and public transit are the best transportation alternatives. They produced the documentary Contested Streets: Breaking NYC Gridlock, a film that explores the rich diversity of New York City street life before the introduction of automobiles — and then goes on to show how New York can follow the example of other modern cities that have reclaimed their streets as vibrant public spaces. The following trailer gives you a taste of the full documentary that’s available for ordering from Transportation Alternatives.
As we can see, cities for most of their existence were for people and performing their business and day-to-day activities. Then at the turn of the 20th century accommodations for the mass-produced automobile had to be made. Prior to the introduction of the automobile, streets were laid out for pedestrian and horse drawn vehicles, including the first omnibuses.
Before the advent of the mass produced automobile, large cities like New York, London, Paris, and others, created working and viable public and private transit systems. After the introduction of the mass-produced automobile, the allure of the trolley and the train faded. Some accuse General Motors of conspiring to kill off the public transit systems in many cities, but in the end their most effective method of killing off public transit systems was simply to sell America on the myth of freedom through automobile ownership.
So what do we do? Obviously this is something we can’t do overnight. We can’t force people to leave the suburbs and move back into cities or a denser urban region around cities. But we have to do something. It will take some thought and planning to rebuild our shattered communities. It took a century to break them, it well may take a century to fix our communities. We shall see.