Thursday, October 7, 2004

Four Lane Bastions of Evil

Four lane roads started out as Interstates and as their name implies, were for travel between states. Now it seems as their main purpose if for commuting to and from big cities and the outlying suburbs. This is readily evident if you have ever lived near a big city and can witness the direction and amount of traffic as it changes with the time of the day. Before these roads were built into the hearts of our cities, people lived closer to their jobs because commuting on clogged smaller roads was just too difficult. As a result, cities were able to sustain viable second-class and upper-class neighborhoods. But we humans love to tinker with things to make them better and roads were no exception.

Four lane roads are being built everywhere and it is almost impossible to live somewhere where you aren't affected by the construction or widening of these roads. These roads not only provide easy access to the city but they also are draining the life from them. These larger roads make it easier for people to flee to the suburbs and then to further suburbs and finally out into the countryside which is really a suburb waiting to get built. People are commuting farther and farther distances and not thinking twice about doing so. Everyone wants to flee the city to their peaceful neighborhood or remote country cottage.

But not everyone can afford to do so and thus lies the problem. Upper-income and middle-income residents are moving out of the cities leaving behind the old and the poor. Businesses are forced to follow the money and also leave for the suburbs. What remains behind, cash starved and slowly deteriorating, are essential services such as hospitals, schools, etc. Finally, even these are strangled of life and close leaving behind a city of decayed ruins.

Our cities are dying. Pollution is increasing as people are forced to use more energy to commute too and from jobs. Our dependency on oil is increasing to record levels. Stores within a short walk from home are being replaced by huge supercenters surrounded by a sea of parking lot miles from your home. Entire suburbs are being built without a single sidewalk forcing people to walk in the streets if they do try to go somewhere. Is all this really better?

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