According to a New York Times article of August 14, “Major Traffic Experiment in N.Y.C.: Cars All but Banned on Major Street.” In New York City, on crowded 14th Street in downtown Manhattan, there is this “crackdown on cars.” That is one huge crackdown, as the 14th Street cross-town route accounts for approximately 21,000 vehicles a day. It is now nearly totally out of bounds, as in no cars. It is tempting: what if…?
The thinking of this paper is unambiguous: what would happen here if any such a move was contemplated, then introduced? To begin with, attempts to address congestion in Georgetown through restrictions on parking met with the fanatical, less than authentic, and delayed visibility of suspected political hands. It was pressure and war named protest, with every ploy and tactic employed. Given those heated atmospherics over parking only, then one can only imagine what the reaction would be for anything as radical and painful as curtailing vehicular entrance, usage, and exit, on any day, be it business day or holiday.
It is reasonable to anticipate what is certain to unfold here, should there be the courage and will to implement something so containing, as ordering limitations on cars coming into the city. New York City had the interest and strength to do just so. Joseph Cutrufo, a spokesman for Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group, said restricting cars from 14th Street was a bold move whose time has come and should be replicated elsewhere.
“We’re working to build streets for people — and people come first,” he said. “You’re still welcome to come to 14th Street, just don’t bring your car.” Try telling that to Guyanese, just be prepared for the worst of reactions. Tell a wayward citizen not to park on somebody else’s bridge could lead to the snarling menacing. Some have had those experiences. Tell other citizens not to double-park uncaringly in the middle of the street, while they carry on a conversation, buy food, or display concern for what is held up behind, and it could be risky to life and limb. At the very least, it is disturbing to the ear. Children be damned. It is just the way we are, and how things have severely deteriorated.
Guyanese don’t have to get with the programme. That is the traffic programme, as carved out by each man for himself. Parking is a right, and the right to clog and slow down everyone and everything to a creep is a bigger, more sacred right. Responsibility to others? The rights of others? What are those? Who cares? Why not try something else, such as addressing noise terrorisms? Debauched culture writ large. A selfish, indisciplined society this is, for those untroubled enough to call their own shots, march to their tunes. In other, more civilised, places, there are the rationales common to people of sanity and broad goodwill. Here is a fleeting glimpse.
Cities across Europe are also seeking to take back their streets. Swinging London has become the most famous case, with its version of what is termed congestion pricing. That is, through charging drivers a fee to enter clogged neighbourhoods. That sounds suspiciously like what was intended and attempted here, for those who want to stick around. All day long. Next, in gay Paree, cars are banned from the city centre one Sunday a month and the City of Lights is rapidly expanding its biking network. Then, skip across town to Spain, to discover that Barcelona has reorganised some streets into what is now called superblocks. This is through turning over the middle of the roadway to those on foot, and as a consequence, shunting cars to the edges. Did somebody dare to say that these are overdue in Georgetown, Guyana? Right here? Right now, given what we have.
In subsequent New York Times coverage dated October 3, the latest was that the restrictions could be made permanent depending of the outcome of what is now an 18-month pilot. Further, curbside parking spots are gone. Loading zones replace.
There are warnings first. Drivers, who shrug off the restrictions, face fines from $50. That is US money. Now who is going to bell the big, bad Guyanese traffic beast?