As I was walking my two-month-old (already!) son around the neighborhood the other day, I started daydreaming. It was silly, and I wasn’t going to bother writing about it, but then I saw a post on eliminating the private automobile (hat tip: Jeff) and thought, hell, my daydream is only a little kookier than that, so why not?
My dream started this way: What if we didn’t need roads? What if we just ripped them all out?
Yes, it’s absurd. Even with super-judo elevated-rail public transportation, you still have to service infrastructure and deliver stuff. Would the plumber parachute in? Would construction crews bring in materials to build new houses in on donkey carts? Would emergency-response teams have to wait at monorail stops? Yeah, yeah, I know.
But still, let your mind wander a moment around the notion. All those streets, gone.
I remember when the wife and I decided to get rid of our TV. Mainly we were looking to save money and keep our toddler’s mind intact. But once we made the decision, we found the TV connected to all sorts of other stuff. The TV went, and with it went the DVD player, the VCR, the cable box, the TiVo, the surround-sound speakers, and — joy! — the big ugly piece of furniture it all sat on. The TV turned out to be at the center of a whole cluster of objects and habits, and once it was gone a huge weight was lifted.
Imagine all that’s connected to roads and cars — everything that would be gone from our lives if they were removed. Millions of acres of public space, freed for bike and walking paths, parks, playgrounds, public art, whatever. Wastewater runoff problem, solved. Heat-island effect, largely gone. One of the biggest causes of accidental death and injury, vanished. Communities closer and more interactive. Air immeasurably cleaner. And everyone just so much more friggin’ relaxed. It would be a change of almost inconceivable consequence.
Maybe it was just the fear every parent has when walking with a child, that a random car will careen onto the sidewalk and wipe out their whole existence. But I started looking around my neighborhood and envisioning an open, grassy expanse filled with neighbors strolling, chatting, playing — a place designed around people and not around big, dirty, deadly machines — and I gotta say, it looked pretty good.