During lockdown I was able to let go of my children’s hands. They could just wander down the road, and I could just chill. It was such a liberating feeling, even under lockdown. I wondered, why can’t it always be like this? Why can’t our children walk on the road?
When lockdown ended the cars started coming out, like beasts of prey. Every corner belies a possible stampede, every artery is a river of death. And they’re loud. My little daughter’s voice doesn’t even reach my ears.
So I hold her hand for dear life and basically drag her along. I’m constantly stressed and just trying to get to safety. Why is it like this? Is this how a city should be planned?
The Old Days
We think it entirely ordinary that the streets belong to machines, to literal capital assets plowing around, but this is quite an anomaly. Roald Dahl, for example, describes being six-years old and just cruising his tricycle around.
Now my children ride their tricycle in the living room, running into shit. Is this progress? Did we not take a wrong turn somewhere?
We wonder why kids don’t play outside but they can’t go outside. We have destroyed the places we live in for the ease of passing thru. We have traded community for convenience.
In this example from Rotherham, UK, just look at how children’s worlds have shrunk. The great-grandfather could roam free as a bird, the grandfather could walk a mile, the mother half a mile, and the child is relegated to their street.
The fuck have we done?
The fact is that we have lost our streets. Capital runs the road, and plows through our communities, bodies, and children if it pleases. I say capital because free movement increasingly involves a huge capital investment, spending thousands of dollars on a car and hundreds on fuel. You have to pay to play, and if you have no money, then get the fuck out of the way.
It’s a real tragedy of the commons. The truth is the ordinary people want to buy a car, they need to buy a car, and they demand better, faster roads. But more roads just creates more traffic, and each road going somewhere has to go thru somewhere else. Cars rip up our common spaces and we all just end up stuck in traffic, worse off than before.
Instead of developing trains and electric trams (which were common a hundred years ago) we ripped them up and built highways and flyovers. We give up huge amounts of our cities to just parking, so people can drive their living rooms into town and put them down.
Now modern trucks (the most popular vehicles in America) are the size of WWII tanks, and have a blind spot the size of an entire daycare in front. We have lost our fucking minds.
Children have a way of showing you the world clearly, questioning all the things you take for granted as a crustified adult. Children want to run on the road, they want to run around corners, they don’t want to just scuttle around the edges where the dogs pee. We tell them NO! but during lockdown I really began to think about it. Why the fuck not?
We should be telling the adults NO! Telling them that you have no particular right to drive a ton of steel around, and that this is doing no good for anyone. I honestly wonder if the horse-drawn era was so resistant to the future as we are today.
We think that this historical anomaly of cars and highways and pollution and death is simply the final form of civilization. In fact it is just us recreating crocodile infested waters that our children are expected to walk along and cross every day. It’s shit. We shouldn’t be living like this. Children should be able to walk on the road.