[Marxism] Walk Against 'House Arrest'- How Too Much Street is Theft

Tony Abdo gojack10 at hotmail.com
Fri Apr 30 11:05:31 MDT 2004

Most Americans would probably rather go for a walk in Havana than Houston.  
Yet they will think of Houston as the success story, and Havana as the 
failure!  Is the car really freedom though?  Since I live in a town without 
sidewalks, to take a walk is a menace to my health. To not take one is a 
menace to my health, two.

Capitalism destroys the quality of life, and that's why the car is really 
capitalism's favorite mechanical prison for us.  A prison promoted as 
freedom.  The car represents the factory brought home to personal time.  It 
is an evil presented as luxury, an unecessary necessity, and a toxic drug 
for allienated people.  Nobody hardly ever seems to question if we actually 
need so much transportation to nowhere?  That's what's wierd.

Tony Abdo
Pedestrian Paradise
By Jay Walljasper, Utne
April 29, 2004

One of the local characters in the small city where I grew up was Judge 
Green. A giant man, probably 6 feet 7, he was widely admired around town, in 
part because he had been star of the only Urbana High School team ever to 
make it to the championship game of the Illinois state basketball 
tournament. I remember him as a cheerful man who greeted everyone with a 
smile. But he had one trait that made him seem a bit peculiar: He walked to 
work every day. If you drove down Broadway Avenue at certain hours, you 
couldn't miss his towering figure striding along the sidewalk.

One day, home from college and already an ardent environmentalist, I was 
walking uptown myself when it dawned on me that Judge Green's home was only 
a few blocks from the courthouse – hardly more than half a mile. I was 
shocked. The man many folks thought eccentric (and I thought heroic) for not 
driving to work each day was covering a distance that would be nothing to 
pedestrians in Europe, or most other places outside the United States. How 
sad, I sighed. There really is no hope that Americans will ever get out of 
their cars if a half-mile walk looks to them like an Olympic endurance 

Walking, in many ways, is still viewed as an exotic and slightly odd habit. 
Try this experiment some time at a party or other gathering: Announce that 
you are walking home. I'll bet you, two-to-one odds, that someone will offer 
a ride, even if you live just three blocks away and it's a sunny 80 degrees 
outside. This is a generous gesture, of course, seen by most folks as 
similar to giving a glass of water to someone who says they're thirsty. Why 
walk if you could go in a car?

But the answer to that question is becoming more complicated than it used to 
be. The net effect of two hundred and fifty million Americans always taking 
the car results in polluted skies, congested roads, global warming, 
burgeoning obesity and a growing sense of isolation in most American 

Our decision to drive made over and over again, has eliminated the option to 
walk in many places. Many kids, old people, poor people, and disabled people 
are living under a form of house arrest, unable to go anywhere without 
finding someone to chauffeur them. Sidewalks are seen as an unnecessary 
luxury in most suburbs, and 60 years of traffic "improvements" on America's 
streets have rendered many other communities unfit for pedestrians. The 
simplest human acts – buying groceries, going to school, visiting friends – 
now depend upon climbing into a car. People today even drive somewhere to 
take a walk because the streets around their homes feel inhospitable.

Yet one thing has changed for the better since I was a kid in the days of 
cheap gas, open roads, and plentiful parking. Increasing numbers of 
Americans – seeing a future of traffic jams, soulless sprawl, and 
never-ending wars for oil – are looking for ways to get out of the driver's 
seat. Even at a time when politicians in Washington are allocating billions 
for another round of mega-highway construction and pop culture celebrates 
the sexy supremacy of Hummer drivers, there is an emerging movement to 
reclaim our right to take a walk.

All across the land, people are speaking up, organizing meetings, fighting 
city hall and, in some cases, working with city hall to make streets safer 
and more pleasant for pedestrians. They've gotten crosswalks painted in some 
places, streets narrowed in others, stop signs and speed bumps installed, 
zoning ordinances changed to promote pedestrian-friendly development, and 
plans created to help kids walk or bike to school.

These issues reach deep into the heart of people's lives. Two neighbors bump 
into one another on the sidewalk and start talking about planting more 
flowers along the street, turning an empty storefront into a coffee shop or 
lobbying the city council to add bike lanes to that busy road. In small but 
important ways, these people are changing the face of America block by 

This is a classic grassroots movement, with no clearly identifiable leaders. 
But a number of the people most active in the cause have been inspired by a 
former seminary student, magazine editor and window washer from Brisbane, 
Australia named David Engwicht. Marked-up copies of Engwicht's books, 
Reclaiming Our Cities and Towns and Street Reclaiming (both New Society 
Publishers), are passed from hand to hand at community meetings and potlucks 
across North America.

Engwicht's message is as simple as it radical. For nearly all of human 
history, he declares, streets belonged to everybody. Kids played there, dogs 
slept there, people stopped there to flirt or gossip. But over recent 
decades, beginning in Detroit and spreading over much of the world, streets 
have been seized for the exclusive use of cars and trucks. Most communities 
have never recovered from this theft. Deprived of our neighborhood gathering 
spots, we've retreated to the backyard or indoors to avoid the noise, smell 
and danger of speeding traffic. In the process, we've withdrawn from one 

complete article at... http://alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=18554

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