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Monday, January 23, 2006
A Disaster Narrowly Averted
I took a ride up to Times Square today to buy the International Herald Tribune, which published my letter to the editor today in response to more nonesense coming out of the pen of David Brooks. On the way back, I was crossing Broadway at 42nd Street with a throng of other pedestrians. A driver in a BMW convertible was so dazzled by the lights in Times Square that he forgot to pay attention to the traffic lights. He flew right through a red light just as the cars traveling both directions on 42nd Street started to roll forward. The speediest of them, a cab, honked at the guy and nearly hit him. The beemer driver freaked out and swerved to the left, but continued speeding forward, into the crowd, which had managed to part just before he rushed through. He brushed past a bunch of people, narrowly avoid maiming or killing them. A few more feet, and people could have died.

Everyone who was walking sort of paused. One guy sort of yelled something in the general direction of the errant driver. Then we collectively sighed and just kept going. No big deal. Imagine if someone had pulled out a pistol and shot into the crowd, but missed by the same narrow margin that this driver missed the folks walking in front of me. There would have been stories all over the front page of the tabloids: GUN-SLINGING MADMAN FIRES IN TIMES SQUARE! The Mayor would have a press conference assuring tourists that its safe to walk in Times Square. But a swerving lunatic behind the wheel? That's just the risk you take when you venture out in public.

Oh, back to the letter. David Brooks finally admitted that the suburban sprawl he's been praising for years had flaws (lack of "community" among them), but he wrote another over-the-top column praising unsustainable development, this time in the form of "new urbanized" subdivisions in the parched deserts of Arizona that will probably never be built. The IHT has already taken this morning's letters down from its website, so I'll repost it here:
In his latest paean to exurban sprawl ("A nation of villages," Views, Jan. 19), David Brooks is right to note that people are demanding community amenities instead of golf courses and strip malls, but he's wrong about where and how American growth will occur in the years leading up to 2025.

Simply extrapolating from present trends isn't the best way to predict that Americans will continue to flock to deserts made habitable through water piped in from a great distance. The difficulty southwestern states have finding water has been well documented. How will there be enough to propel the amount of growth Brooks predicts?

Brooks also ignores the coming energy crunch. Despite the patina of "amenity-rich villages — pedestrian-friendly streetscapes," the type of growth Brooks describes so enthusiastically guzzles huge amounts of energy.

It won't be economical to build sprawl in the desert. Revitalizing cities and towns built by the generations that preceded us will be the economical option.

Aaron Donovan, New York
It is nice to know that some people right here in New York are becoming aware of our energy problems. This evening, after returning from Times Square in one piece, I went downtown to buy some more bacon for the war effort, and I saw a new sight. Every evening where I live, here in the Financial District, there are rows of black sedans idling in lines that snake around whole city blocks, waiting to drive the stars of Wall Street home (or wherever they ask to be taken, actually). I've been observing this phenomenon from time to time over the years, and today, amid the black Town Cars, was the first pug-nosed, squat-looking Toyota Prius that I've seen in livery service. I wonder whose car that was. Probably someone who analyzes the automobile industry, or the oil industry, and is a step ahead of the public on issues of energy consumption. Maybe it was Arjun Murti's.
- Posted at 11:06 PM | Permalink | Comments: 2 | Post a Comment |  

When I was 15 and my dad took me to the church parking lot to learn how to drive, the first thing he told me when i sat down behind the wheel was this: A car is a weapon. You're now in control of a potentially lethal weapon.

then i turned the key, started it up and i was amazed that if my foot wasn't on the brake, the car idles forward. i thought the only way the car moved is if your foot was on the gas. who knew!?

By Anonymous, at 1/24/2006 10:40 AM  

The gun analogy is good, except that we as a society have come to accept the car as ruler of the road. Only if the car goes onto the narrow strip of concrete is the driver considered a "menace". But because the sidewalk is so narrow at intersections it cannot hold all the pedestrians and thus people spill out onto the street waiting for the light to turn.

MADD has been saying for years that cars are weapons. That's why I couldn't drink in North America until I was 21. But my rural friends were driving out to go hunting at age 16. What's up with that?

By peakguy, at 1/24/2006 11:43 PM  


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