World Carfree Day

RECEIVED Mon., Sept. 22, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Monday, Sept. 22, is World Carfree Day. It's a chance to check up on the U.S. press (how big must this event get before they acknowledge it?) and an invitation to imagine Austin with a little less motor-vehicle obsession. Fifty years ago, most people didn't have cars. A hundred years ago, people mostly walked to where they needed to go. Now people think they can't walk two miles, and the streets are clogged with snarling, smoking cars. Something has gone wrong somewhere, and it's worth a little reflection.
    What if we didn't have giant parking lots everywhere? What if we could walk across any street in town? What if people began their days by just walking out the door and “rush hour” was just a flurry of people on foot and on bicycles? More houses would sport window boxes with flowers, as they do in walking cities. We could have small stores and eateries where people live, because they wouldn't attract cars. (Nobody likes other people's cars.) Schools would not be the scenes of traffic jams. We could have entertainment in parks without clogging the surrounding streets with cars.
    Since people wouldn't be sitting in traffic jams for hours, they wouldn't get so angry. And think of all the money we'd save! Without cars, we'd hardly even need traffic lights. Emergency rooms would empty out. The air would be cleaner, the noise level much lower, and the temperature several degrees cooler.
    Imagine an Austin where people walked freely, an Austin that didn't smell like car exhaust. Imagine not sacrificing our world to the car gods.
Yours truly,
Amy Babich
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