Driving Down Memory Lane
by ttoro
 word on the street
Oct 26, 2009 | 19884 views | 0 0 comments | 381 381 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
skully board
skully board

It's come to this...  the sense of entitlement to all of our public space that drivers demonstrate on a daily basis is now being addressed in a way that potentially punishes the entire population, whether we're driving responsibly or not.  Oh goody.


When I was a kid (here in Brooklyn, when Pluto was still a planet), people walked their dogs in the street and sidewalks were clean.  Traffic was less heavy on residential streets - and truck traffic was minimal compared to what it is now.  We played on the streets, taking reasonable care (for kids) to look out for cars and drivers also looked out for us.  It was not unusual for a driver to actually STOP while a ball was in play on the street, wait till the action paused, and then proceed.  If the driver was someone we knew we'd offer a little thump on the hood or the side door as a thank-you.

What's that you said?  Where were our parks?  Where were our parents? Yes, we had parks in Cypress Hills, including Highland Park.  The problem was that it was too far away for us to travel there alone - we were KIDS - and we had no one to drive us there; and besides, the street was perfectly adequate for street hockey, tag, skully, skating, stoop ball, stick ball, epic snowball fights, and other games.  We didn't feel like we were missing anything by playing on our tree-lined street.

And people curbed their dogs.  I remember this fondly.  No one allowed their dogs to poop on the sidewalk, ever.  Sidewalks were for, well, people.  Now, dog owners have been driven (literally) from the curbs because the average city driver speeds and/or drives in other reckless ways.  It's simply not safe to leisurely walk your pet in the street, not even if you hug along the parked cars.  It's also not enjoyable or safe to take a long walk or run to exercise your dog on the street, which has increased the demand for dog runs in our parks.

Nowadays people feel forced to walk their dogs on the sidewalks. Even if they thoroughly pick up after their dogs, our sidewalks are no longer healthy place for kids to play... what parent would feel comfortable allowing their kids to play on the sidewalks, aware of this toxic layer added to noxious car and truck fumes?

The incremental result of car domination over these decades is this: We are all cowering on the sidewalks and running for our lives; some of us might die waiting for that fire truck or ambulance; and we've all have voluntarily placed ourselves under virtual house arrest.  Sadly, we don't realize that most of the time.  Saddest of all, we've lost any sense that things could be different - or that in fact they once were.  With these Rumblers, the NYPD has clearly forgotten as well. 

I remember a time when  all drivers of all vehicles immediately pulled over to let emergency vehicles pass, no fooling around, no funny business.  Today I see drivers either stuck between or behind idiot drivers who clearly are refusing to budge - you can SEE there's room for them to pull over but they don't - and I can't believe their selfishness, even though I've watched it encroach upon and finally take over our public space. 

Most drivers seem to care little that the house on fire might be their own, or a loved one's.  They seem to care little that the person in the ambulance might be a relative or possibly them, heaven forbid.  The only reality that seems to matter is their progress towards their destination, and they're not about to yield that up to some stupid screaming emergency vehicle that is paid for with their tax dollars, damn it. Now the NYPD has bought into this wayward thinking, and instead of running a public service advertising campaign (which would be more to the point and probably less expensive), they're spending money on this technology.

These "Rumblers" are just another way that we're being punished for the choices - which seemed so minor, so individual, so convenient, so harmless - that we've collectively made over the years.  I'm wondering how much more punishment we'll inflict - and accept - before we start to question, as an entire city population, whether allowing car dominance has been worth the price.

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