I urge everyone to start their week right by reading this truly great essay by Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Inga Saffron in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer. NOBODY predicted what happened in Philly over the last three days, while a chunk of the city was closed to cars and buses to provide security for Pope Francis. What happened was that the fifth largest city in America got to experience a piece of itself as a car-free zone, just as many European cities enjoy parts of themselves–welcoming of pedestrians, bicyclists, dogs, children enjoying more freedom than usual–and sporting a totally different vibe. My daughter is a Philadelphia teacher who lives in the city without a car and bikes everywhere she goes. The schools were off Friday and today and it was a great time to be in Philly!
photo credit Inga Saffron
“The unprecedented shutdown of the five-square-mile heart of Philadelphia was driven by the need for security (or rather, the perceived need for security), but it inadvertently created the kind of car-free city that urbanists dare imagine only in their wildest dreams. The virtual absence of vehicles in the sprawling secure zone, from Girard to Lombard, was a revelation. Instead of locking us in, it turned out that the much-maligned traffic box liberated us from the long tyranny of the car.”