It can often seem looking back that Detroit was an auto manufacturer long before it was ever a proper city, and looking across the landscape that we all share, this images truly strikes home. With asphalt as far as the eye can see, highways that seem to lead to everywhere and nowhere, streets across streets in a jumbled ball of yarn that is our motorways, like every car that came off the line came with a mile of roadway tacked alongside it, and yet our number of vehicles on these roads is lower than ever.
This makes for a weird conundrum as you read across news outlets each passing day that a cyclist or pedestrian somewhere was cause unaware by the broadside of a sedan. It seems counter-intuitive to have so many roadways for the number of vehicles on the road, and yet so little means for bikers and fellow non-motorized motorists. Yet the Open Streets program aims to bring a little shift to this dynamic, at least for a few days each year, the program aims to bring less vehicles onto our roads, and more people.
The premise is simple, for a block of hours, on one specific day, the roads are closed to motorists, allowing bikers, walkers and even wagons pulled by parents to be the main form of transportation on these roads. Much like the closures we see for yearly marathons, yet with a much more laid back approach to it. It’s a great concept, and a great way to get people to actually step out and enjoy the city a little more. It’s amazing to see that the premise alone of no vehicles on specific roads, has people coming out of their homes and enjoying the air.
Sure there are some detractors, but it’s typically those who wouldn’t be satisfied with any type of change, especially one that can make them a minute late to get their afternoon coffee by having to take a different side road. Yet for the most part it’s been embraced by everyone, city leaders included, which can turn this annual event into one that happens more than ever. There used to be a time that roads belonged to pedestrians, and vehicles had to abide by that, yet through sheer marketing those times changed, yet every time changes, and sometimes going back is a good thing.
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to be able to walk down the center line of Michigan avenue in the middle of the afternoon without worrying about becoming a hood ornament, you have your chance now, and it’s high time it came about. If the vehicles aren’t going to be the mainstays they once were, perhaps it’s time we reclaim our place as masters of the streets in pedestrian form, at least for a few hours out of a single day out of each year, hey, it’s a start at the very least.
Anyone standing and watching the cars zip by on the I-75 and looking for a means to get across or down that particular stretch of road often thinks it safer to take a street astride the speedway and keep their lives intact, yet some people view it as just another road, taking their chances against the fast moving traffic, and being the subject to tickets and fines from local police for their efforts, yet for as many walkers and bikers we see there on a weekly basis, we rarely see mobility scooters as the travel method of choice.
Yet, that was the scene last week on this stretch of highway as a 76 year old lady decided that taking the safe route was for chumps, and proceeded to take the onramp from her grocery trip and head into traffic without a care in the world. This of course caught the attention of those in actual vehicles on the road, prompting more than a few calls to the local police. Eventually the fuzz caught up with the elderly daredevil and proceeded to give her a much safer ride home, in the police car.
She was let off with a warning, and attempts were made to have her see the error in her judgement, yet if it will have any effect, not many know. She did manage to make it a full mile at the slightly above snail’s pace that the scooter can muster, maybe next time she’ll try to see if she can make the entire journey. And though this can be a funny story both to hear and to report, it shouldn’t be taken as one to copy, for even though this one had a happy, and humorous ending, not all do.
There have been more than our share of fatalities on this stretch of road, both to those within vehicles, and those without, and taking your chances in fast moving traffic is an unnecessary risk. When looking for a quicker means of travel across the distances, you have many options, the Q-Line, Uber, or simply taking a side street. All it takes is one drivers absence of judgement and your life is forfeit for your decision. It’s always the best practice to follow the rules of the road, as they are in place for a reason, whether we always agree with them or not.
Perhaps Granny’s speed demon days are over, perhaps she got the thrill of the chase and will find new and inventive ways to get home, but regardless of how the story ends, we all hope that it’s one of relative safety, and not erroneous judgement that unnecessarily puts her own and others’ lives at risk. Leave the freeway for the vehicles, and keep your wits about you when making your way home, all it takes is a moment to change the course of your life, or end it, and shaving those precious few minutes off your commute isn’t worth it.