An odd way to go carfree
- Hi, people, this is my very first message here , after half a week
trying to post one until I found out I still had to sign in after
I am a 17 year old high school student from Brazil.
Im going to tell about something very dramatic to me , something I'll
never forget .
Ive been reading the carfree pages for sometime , time enough to read
it all twice. Only then I realized how car traffic kills street life
and community life up to , Id say almost 100 percent. It was last
thursday, I was in our apartment on the 7th floor of a building. It
was quite boring , I had just had lunch and really had gotten nothing
to do. I went to the balcony and started throwing some tiny rocks(?)
from my mother's plant down to the vacant lot across the street. At
this point , I saw some cars parked by the sidewalk and it suddenly
came to my mind that all that boring feeling could be due mostly by
And it really is. Noise here is absolutely unbearable, even late at
night, 2am, 4am , you name it , it seems like the car noise is like
your heartbeat, you dont know when it began and it seems like it just
wont stop ( well maybe next oil crisis could finish with it , huh? ).
Well, then I just began to try some shots ! I tried five or six of
them, until I finally hit , from up here , a compact's back
windshield. God , I only wish I hadnt. I was really trying that, but
that certainly isnt a good way to express a feeling. Well, that tiny
rock , the diameter of a coin, broke the windshield in thousands of
small pieces that didnt fall at all, the windshield cracked but no
part fell off. That's when my neighborhood community spirit proved
You are walking up a street, and you see a car with a cracked
windshield, what do you do? If you arent on a hurry, like most people
are, you'll look for its owner, right? Or maybe talk to the people
around about it, of how it could have been a burglar trying to steal
whatever, or a kid who was playing ball and unadvertedly hit the car.
One would probably say he had no doubt it was an object thrown from
building that did such damage to the car. Well, that is what I
thought. Having to explain to a whole angry neighborhood such
act . Having to come home and find a note by the doorman that a car
was damaged and they were looking for the one resposible for that.
Well, thats not what happened. About for hours later , having
home from some activities, there was just no compact parked , not at
the place it was hit, nor anywhere else ! I mean, how could the owner
possibly believe it was a burglar , a boy, or the extreme heat that
broke his car windshield ? How come the other building's doorman
see anything and asked another's help to find out who had damaged the
gentleman's or lady's car? How come no one passing by saw that and
noticed it could only have been something fallen from my building to
do such harm? I am about to think that there could even be a dead
there and people would only notice it when it got in the middle of
street and began blocking traffic ! The fact it, nothing happened, I
have no idea whose car was it ( it could well be my neighbor's , look
at that ), or what he thought it was that caused his windshield to
suddenly crack in pieces on a thursday afternoon . I thought it would
be quite unprobable that something like this would happen, that Id
much easier win the lottery than end up innocent in all this. All
does show also how people are more and more by their own in this
and they will get each day less affected by what doesnt directly harm
them . Perhaps the compact's owner was simply too goofy not to look
for a reasonable explanation to the fact, but its possible that he
thought he'd get no answer at all. Few people pass by, most use their
cars and thats too fast for them to notice anything. Im not sure ,
I think I will advise my mother not to park by any tall building.
Mateus O. Fechino
- Dear Mateus
Thank you very much for your piece to Carfree. I hope it is cross-posted
widely. I am 58 and a University lecturer and people of your generation
understanding what autodependency does to our relationships in cities is my
hope for the future. I have been a car owner and driver since I was 20 and
it was not until about 5 years ago that I came to see what you have
discovered for yourself at 17.
I do not support vandalising cars and I do not think you do. You were making
a powerful point about the way we have lost contact with each other in the
city. I hope you will become politically involved in campaigning for the
ideas that increasingly are being shared across the world on this and in
other "web conversations". Please keep posting your views and experiences -
but make sure someone who owned that car isn't a web surfer!
Below are some other contacts - several UK based but all interested in the
international scene, for instance the initiaives being taken in Bogota to
achieve carfree conditions over the next decade - that you may wish to
explore where you fill, if you have not already find similarly minded people
and groups. In some of these cases you will need to "subscribe" in the usual
... and I know there are many more.
Inlogov, School of Public Policy
University of Birmingham
Birmingham B15 2TT
0121 554 9794
Mobile 07775 655842
Fax 0121 240 4238
Campus 0121 414 4999 Fay Wilson <F.E.WILSON@...>
> -----Original Message-----...
> From: Mateus Fechino [mailto:mateus.fechino@...]
> Sent: 3 novembre, 2000 17:56
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Subject: [carfree_cities] An odd way to go carfree
> Hi, people, this is my very first message here , after half a week
> trying to post one until I found out I still had to sign in after
> registering hahaha
> I am a 17 year old high school student from Brazil.
> Im going to tell about something very dramatic to me , something I'll
> never forget .
> Ive been reading the carfree pages for sometime , time enough to read
> it all twice. Only then I realized how car traffic kills street life
> and community life up to , Id say almost 100 percent. It was last
> thursday, I was in our apartment on the 7th floor of a building. It
> was quite boring , I had just had lunch and really had gotten nothing
> to do. I went to the balcony and started throwing some tiny rocks(?)
> from my mother's plant down to the vacant lot across the street. At
> this point , I saw some cars parked by the sidewalk and it suddenly
> came to my mind that all that boring feeling could be due mostly by
> these cars.
I feel the same. Rich social environment is anywhere except where there are
cars circulating. I said everywhere, even in the forest. Imagine you're
walking in a trail and pass by another lonely hiker going in the opposite
direction and he, she, or you happen(s) to slip and fall within 2 metres of
the other person. The other will have the reflex to stop and offer help to
the other or just exchange a few words, even if the other is not hurt and
has already stood up again.
In contrast, if someone is driving a car on a street, and a cyclist passes
in the opposite direction and falls off, or another car driver passes and
gets a flat tire (or another problem), the driver of the first car will at
best quickly look at what happens, and may even not stop to offer help or
exchange with the other person.
Yesterday while getting back home by the metro, I held the door for a woman
carrying 4 grocery bags, and later on while entering the car, another woman
also getting in dropped her scarf on the platform. I quickly grabbed it
before the doors close, and I gave her back the scarf. In both cases we
exchanged a few words, but there is more than that: the non-verbal
relationships and feelings. This can happen anywhere in a carfree city, not
only in the underground or on the sidewalk.
I hardly imagine if you drive an automobile, how you're going to pick up the
box that fell off the trunk of the car in front of yours, and if you're
honest, attempt to reach the other person to give him back. On foot or
cycle, the whole process is a matter of seconds, and the item dropped will
remain in good condition unless it's as fragile as a glass bottle or dish.
Mateus, I understand your feelings when you step on your balcony. The
outdoor environment is boring. Imagine you're living in the exect same
apartment in the exact same building, but the street is carfree. I think
you'll wait to walk to the nearest stream to throw stones, and you'll enjoy
looking at the rich streetlife going on below. 7 floors is a bit high, but
since the carfree city is calm, you may recognise a friend, yell "Hello" to
him and meet him downstairs :-) No cell phone required, and no drive-talk