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1667Re: [carfree_cities] Millenium Dome is Car free!

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  • Simon Baddeley
    Oct 7, 2000
      I visited the Dome on Thursday. I was able to buy a £27 Chiltern Rail return
      ticket from New Street to N.Greenwich (via Marylebone) from Birmingham and
      leave the Midlands at 10.30, to arrive in the Dome at about 2.00. I found
      the tube easy - taking my Brompton - and I returned to Marylebone later in
      the day using the unfinished riverside path from the Dome which afforded
      some great views of the place as I worked my way up back up river towards
      Greenwich and beyond.

      I was for obvious reasons primed to be jaundiced about the experience and
      admit that at no point did I go "wow", which probably isn't good enough for
      £300,000,000 (or whatever) but on the other hand I enjoyed myself and in a
      number of cases was intrigued (and I had a delicious salmon and cream cheese
      bagel). I also recall that my Mum took me to the Festival of Britain and
      that at times I wept with boredom but I liked the Skylon and the Dome of
      Discovery and then we went to Battersea Pleasure Gardens and the ice cream
      was just wonderful.

      The "Journey" exhibit at the Dome sponsored by Ford was much less irritating
      than I expected. It did not seem to me to apologise for the car, admitted
      there was a crisis, invited people to enter a room to think what should be
      done, "cos we can't go on like this", and then showed a room full of
      bicycles and scooters and roller blades, another space for rail as well as
      "pollution free" 100% recyclable cars of the future jam packed with
      telematics to which you will hand over control of the driving and a variety
      of different flying machines (none of them a super jumbo) and a an
      opportunity to vote on scenarios for 2025 (or was it further ahead)
      comparing local living, global community and so on. There was also a
      reference to the option of banning cars from cities in the space devoted to
      urban traffic regulation and monitoring. Of course there was nothing about
      the murderous record of the car's or road freighter's impact on lives and
      community but nor was there a celebration of the car's contribution to
      personal freedom (the usual defence) - but the acknowledgement was there
      that things had to change. I got the impression that the people who designed
      this were aware of the potential frowns and pursed lips of people like me
      and so they had chosen their images and sounds and words with some tact. I
      noted that all the voting monitors (you could get a card and vote on various
      transport options and predictions) were ones I favoured even though some
      questions were impossible. (e.g.do you think the car will become less
      polluting? of course I said "No" but I would have liked to say "Yes -
      because no-one will need the things."

      On the dome again. I especially didn't like the fact that you couldn't walk
      right round it's outside. The devil in these things is so often in the
      detail that one aeshetic totalitarian in charge (which perhaps ought to have
      happened) can sometimes force everything into rightness or deliver total
      (rather than the current slow one) ruination. Birmingham airport is
      disability friendly (I'm told) unlike any other airport becasue it's manager
      was disabled. I was sad that there was no moment when you looked up and saw
      the whole great roof of the dome in full scale, becasue there were so many
      bits and pieces between the spectattor and the roof. I was made morose by
      the mutiplicity of corporate logos but to deplore that is to deny that for
      the last 25 years we have been living in a world where the tax paying
      classes don't want to pay for a public realm or for public projects and
      where their children (and grown-ups) already semand the right to parade the
      world with advertisng on them. There are little vulgar details that could
      easily have been dealt with by a genius (you get my point). In a pluralistic
      highly individuated age that seeks to be inclusive I'm not sure what would
      have pleased enough people to make this thing work and I reckon the
      consequences of putting the brake on this project in mid '99 would have been
      even more serious than the present ones.

      An abiding memory of the place will be the superb view back along the Thames
      in the evening light from the half finished cycle path where I stood amid
      temporary fencing, graffiti covered corrugated iron next to a builder's
      yard. I enjoyed picking my way back along the bank like this to see if there
      was a way through - but it's sad it wasn't ready for the year 2000 and still
      looks like there's a way to go and the women I asked about it in the Tourist
      information booth on the Dome Site knew nothing about getting from the Dome
      into central London by bicycle - though at least she didn't suggest the
      Dartford Tunnel. I had pleasure tho' in seeing the cycle park and in leaving
      my Brompton in the left luggage - with admiring remarks from the staff

      I shall probably go again not least for the pleasure of gently questioning
      some of the staff I met there about the place and because I still want to
      see some other exhibits. In the meantime I shall look forward to the Tate
      Modern or "London Carfree Day" on 22 Sept 2001 when Ken has had a greater
      chance to get his teeth into the idea on days that fall two years in a row
      on weekends - but that political task will be mammoth on the same scale as
      getting rid of Milosevic. These folk will cling like limpets to their motors
      and even when they are in a dwindling minority on the subject of one carfree
      day a year and limited car free areas will be powerful and - in the
      desperation of their dependency - vicious in rhetoric and action in defence
      of their right to dominate our streets.


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