Uncontrolled cars cause cities' declineThe city is in a...

the Forum

March 23, 1995

Uncontrolled cars cause cities' decline

The city is in a fight for survival today. We all know that; we read the newspaper. What we don't seem to know is who our opponent is.

Not only that, our opponent doesn't even know there's a fight going on. In fact, our opponent is so stupid it only has two functions and one way of control. That opponent is the automobile.

Our cities were built to a human scale. Speeding was about 7 miles an hour. Ten miles per hour was reckless abandon. This was fine, and our streets were filled with people. Vehicles could be avoided with little effort, and although I'm sure there were complaints, from today's perspective they were minor.

But the automobile, to function well, needs to operate within a different and larger scale. Automobiles aren't built for or expected to be driven below 25 miles per hour.

But while they operate at that speed they command an area almost twice their width and five times as long as the vehicle itself.

We have allowed the automobile to hold sway since its inception. Speed limits in our cities now exceed the speed of reckless abandon and require our citizens to pay special and serious attention to danger whenever they're afoot in the city.

This leads our citizens to abandon the city for places like shopping malls, where the automobile is excluded totally. Let's correct this.

By placing restrictions on automobiles that reduce them to human scale within the confines of the city, we can eliminate the danger presently inherent within it. When this danger is eliminated, our cities will thrive.

I can see Charles Street with one narrow lane down the middle for travel, a narrow lane to each side restricted to a loading zone during pedestrian hours and pedestrian areas to either side some four feet wider than today's.

The speed limit is 15 mph, and the cars no longer own the street. And I can see people in droves, working, living and shopping there.

An almost-abandoned stretch of West Baltimore Street configured in that pattern will blossom.

If we take our city back from the automobile, it will add to the quality of life while not unduly restricting movement.

John Hagerhorst


City dwellers

There is a movement afoot. Some of us have become city residents lately because of its convenience and interesting diversity.

Like Steven and Carol Beard (Letter, March 11) we became city dwellers three years ago. We tell people we retired to the city. We love walking to our library, stores and restaurants.

We love the vibrancy of the city. Here is another couple unwilling to pull the plug on Baltimore's life support system.

Dick and Pat Elliott


City Hall's spin

The Schmoke administration has found an easy method of getting its message across to the citizens of Baltimore City and beyond.

City officials are currently harnessing and exploiting taxpayer- and corporate-contributed dollars for free political advertising.

This form of subsidized propaganda includes newspaper advertising, billboards and various ad agency produced political "spin" which is free, flexible and given a quick government stamp of approval if it conforms to the political agenda at hand.

As the self-anointed giver of thanks and defender of the injustices of questioning government spending, Mayor Kurt Schmoke has made it clear that the taxpayer call for fiscal constraints will go unheeded by his administration.

Mayor Schmoke and his taxpayer-financed advertising machine have recently, in many people's minds, misused moneys to advertise the unheralded deeds of the city police department, rTC the misinterpreted results of the Housing Authority rehabilitation program and most recently future billboard advertising thanking President Clinton for the taxpayer-financed federal block grants disbursed for the Baltimore City business empowerment zones.

Not only is a taxpayer "thank you" billboard not under consideration, it is no longer a requirement that positive results of programs are determined before the advertisement word gets out about the good deeds of our political special interests. Under our present system, it takes only available taxpayer money budgeted for advertising and a program without a track record to lay the foundation for free political advertisements.

Michael Given


Young blacks have nowhere to turn

Today, when affirmative action policies are under attack around the country, the few opportunities afforded to blacks may be dramatically reduced.

Increasingly, it has become necessary for black civic organizations (NAACP, Urban League, fraternities and sororities, etc.) to become incubators for leadership, as they once were in the past.

In the early days of the civil rights struggle, these organizations gave birth to many of today's black leaders.

Martin Luther King Jr., Jesse Jackson, Barbara Jordan, Andrew Young, etc., owe much of their success to black civic organizations, which gave them the opportunity to hone the skills needed to become leaders.

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