Could you live without your car? Most of us use our vehicles for commutes, errands, and even recreation, especially now that summer road trip season is in full swing. It's strange, but some of the wildest spots in the lower 48 have to be reached by car before you can hike them.
This Sunday the Towards Carfree Cities conference in Portland, Ore. will unite experts and the public in an effort to find real solutions for building entire communities that rely on mass transit, bikes, and walking in lieu of automobiles. In conjunction with the conference, Portland will close a six-mile loop of streets to see how a large section of the city functions without car traffic. Also, since this is Portland, after all, local organizations will offer yoga demonstrations, music lessons, dance classes, and food kiosks in the car-free streets. The six-hour Sunday Parkways in Portland celebration is modeled after similar festivities in Bogota, Colombia, where about 2 million people converge on over 70 miles of empty road to dance, eat, and par-tay every Sunday.
The 8th annual Towards Carfree Cities conference is sponsored by the World Carfree Network, a Prague-based organization dedicated to finding worldwide alternatives to automobiles.
Meanwhile, on the East Coast, New York City also plans to go carless for three Saturdays in August, shutting down an almost 7-mile stretch of Manhattan streets, from the Brooklyn Bridge to Park Avenue on the Upper East Side. Mayor Michael Bloomberg was joined by Lance Armstrong for the announcement, and views the carless Saturdays as a giant experiment for New York.
“If it works, we’ll certainly consider doing it again,” Mr. Bloomberg said, at a news conference in the East Village on Lafayette Street, which will be included in the route. “If not, we won’t. But we have never been afraid to try new ideas, especially the ones that have the potential to improve the quality of life.”
Cars will be banned along the route from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., and while some NYC residents are stoked, local business owners worry about sustaining inventory without delivery cars or vehicular business. New Yorkers will also have access to yoga classes, dancing, and even bicycle rentals.
What about you? Would going carfree be going carefree, or is life without four wheels just a drag?
— Ted Alvarez