Slog - The Stranger's Blog

Line Out

The Music Blog

« Flash Mob at Home Depot | Gorilla Gay Coffee House »

Friday, August 25, 2006

Wherever the Automobile Congregates

Posted by on August 25 at 13:40 PM


An excerpt from the introduction to Bicycling the Backroads Around Puget Sound, 1973:

For the bicycling enthusiast some good things have been happening recently. For example, for the first time in over half a century, more bicycles than motor cars are being sold annually in the United States. Bicycling has suddenly become popular. Young people, particularly those with a concern for their environment, see the bicycle as practical transportation for short hauls. Adults are finding it a respectable vehicle for exercise, commuting, recreation and family fun.
The automobile in recent bouts with environmentalists and the government has not come off unscathed. A few years ago it seemed that the auto and its proponents could do no wrong. Now it is recognized universally as one of our chief polluters and major cause of degradation of our living environment…. A segment of the population…and a portion of government is questioning the utter domination of urban lives by the automobile—the ruin of the central cities, the sprawl of suburbia…the waste of fuel and other resources, the noise, smog and ugliness that follow the automobile wherever it congregates in large numbers.

It goes on in heartbreaking detail about “this hard look at the auto and the depressing future it is helping to create,” and about how citizens of the Pacific Northwest are demanding a better balance of transportation, looking at alternatives, and, of course, embracing our friend the bike. The good people of 1973 are advised to look to Europe as a model for cycling-friendly planning, paths, and drivers. The cartoon bicyclists depicted wear propeller beanies or crumpled fedoras—not a helmet or mention thereof in the entire book. A couple of rides tour the scenic Southcenter area (starting “at the base of the Southcenter sign pylon near Nordstom Best”). (My favorite part so far in this book my dear aunt just gave me is the note for the “Mileage Log” section for a ride around Index, Washington: “You don’t need one; you can’t get lost.”)

CommentsRSS icon

Since the 1960's Seattle anti-growth Hippies have been fighting for more bike paths, less growth, and more parks. Just read old copies of Seattle Weakly.

Instead we've got a beautiful skyline, a vibrant nightlife, and a buzzing economy. Imagine if the anti-growth hippies had won in the 1970's? Microsoft might be in Cleveland, and Seattle would be a sleepy town without even the Columbia Center to boast about. I'm glad we're moving towards a dense downtown a great new restaurants. Old Seattle sounds dull, dull, dull. Density is much better.

Just say "NO" to fat mayors.

That is heartbreaking. Kind of like those car ads you'll see in magazines from the 70s, advertising cars with mileage in the high 40s. I think we missed our chance.

Density downtown with taller buildings, more nightlife and better restaurants will make Seattle better than ever. If we repeal the onerous growth restrictions, Seattle can grown into a vibrant, livable, city with smart growth. Everyone can bike to work, and to the coffee shop.

For interesting (and perhaps somewhat insightful) reading on how the automobile has affected urban areas in the U.S., I recommend The Geography of Nowhere, by Kunstler.

Relative to many parts of the U.S., Seattle isn't REALLY all that terribly off with respect to non-car-based transportation and population density. Try moving to suburbia, USA, after living in Seattle and you, too, will see what I mean. Obviously it could be better, but there are so many complicated factors involved in urban planning/re-designing that I think we should devote equal attention to studying and celebrating what has worked and working to improve things that haven't.

I remember seeing this book in Cat and Cannon and reading through it for several minutes. The travel ideas are lengthy and daring.

You also ironically need a car to reach most of the routes. Yeah, whoops.

When we first got here in 1974, this book stood prominently on what would have been bookshelves if we had had any furniture. And, yeah, helmets were just testing the market, with converted rock climbing helmets from MSR. My wife insisted that we get some, and for two or three years, if you wore a helmet in Seattle, we probably knew you and rode with you.

We even did rides with Bill & Erin Woods (the authors of the book). He was a Boeing engineer, and they were meticulously prepared for every ride, while we showed up hung over and with one or more shoes missing. They taunted us by pouring themselves hot coffee from a huge metal thermos at rest stops.

The Burke-Gilman Trail was on the drawing boards but, in a prelude to the East Sammamish Trail saga, adjacent landowners were hollering about the threat of increased crime, and were busily trying to claim title to pieces of the rail corridor. Fortunately, it didn't work then, either.

<a href=>erosive esophagitis</a> all about

Comments Closed

In order to combat spam, we are no longer accepting comments on this post (or any post more than 45 days old).