I’ve raved about New York City’s newish pedestrian plazas a few times this year, but the idea for these people-friendly urban features isn’t new at all. In fact, 40 years ago, social critic Paul Goodman and his brother Percival proposed doing away with cars in the Big Apple altogether — so that New Yorkers could enjoy cleaner air, safer streets, and “a more integrated community life.”
“Banning Cars from Manhattan” (PDF) was the title of Paul’s essay, published in 1961 in Dissent magazine. Paul and Percival proposed banning all cars “except buses, small taxis, vehicles, for essential services (doctor, police, sanitation, vans, etc.), and the trucking used in light industry” — leaving room for a possible lift on the ban on weekends “when the truck and bus traffic is much diminished.”
Though written long ago, Paul’s proposal’s still very much relevant — and applicable. I read it with great interest, nodding along in agreement until Paul stabbed me in the heart on the last page with this parenthetical: “In sprawling cities like Los Angeles or Cleveland, of course, one cannot get rid of the cars.”
We’ll see about that. I’d actually read this essay a long time ago, but had forgotten about it, coming across it this time around thanks to “Paul Goodman Changed My Life,” a documentary in the making about Paul. Think you’ve got some great, car-free ideas, a la Paul Goodman? JSL Films, the company behind the documentary, is running a contest for those who think outside the car — and are willing to write their local government about their innovative ideas.
Simply write your local government “with five ideas that could be implemented in your area to promote forms of transportation that reduce global warming” and enter the contest by Nov. 30. Two winners — one from North America and one from Europe — will each win a new bicycle from Breezer Bikes and Biomega, respectively. Feel free to share your ideas in the comments here, too!