Something remarkable has happened during the time of covid in Olde Town Arvada, where I live and work. The automobile has been shunted aside. Not everywhere, but in three core blocks of this commercial district, the streets have been put off limits to cars and all other motorized vehicles. Smelly, self-important and space-hogging cars and trucks must simply go elsewhere.
This gladdens my heart. Arvada, in my 23 years of experience, has not been particularly daring. Like most suburbs, it tends toward conservatism of the old-school Republican kind. That may well be justified in some ways, but I have noticed a certain obsequiousness to the 20th century paradigm. That paradigm bows low to the imperative of automobile transportation.
Let me cite one almost trivial example. I live on an adjoining street to the Olde Town shops and restaurants. The city has marked it as a secondary artery. It’s not a full-blown highway, but rather one that it is assumed will get extra heavy traffic. This means that during winter when a few snowflakes fall, out come the trucks slathering the street with salt. I’m sure this allows drivers to speed down the street and save 3 seconds. (The flip side is that after the storm, I have to spend a half-hour gong to a car wash to get rid of the salt from my car).
We all love the mobility of our cars and trucks. But during the 20th century we bowed and scraped far too much in our towns and cities. The drive-everywhere attitude took us to some bizarre places. AT a family gathering many yeas ago, my mother’s cousin talked with me. He had been a petroleum engineer in Pennsylvania. Upon retirement, he and his wife bought an RV and traveled the country. But he was indignant about Vail (where I then lived) because Vail Vail was off-limits to motorized.
Vail took a beating in its early years. Instant Tyrolean, some called it. Bake-and-shake Bavaria. But others have followed. I’m not sure which was first, Aspen or Boulder. I was in Fort Collins in the mid-1970s, when the city was discussing closing down College Avenue. It never happened, but an adjoining street was closed. It’s a delightful area.
This pedestrianization of Arvada came over the course of decades. First were the bulb-outs, the widening of street corners on Old Wadsworth in a way that narrows the gap for drivers and causes them to slow down, at least a little. It worked, but the arrogance of internal-combustion engines, especially so the motorcycles. sullied the experience of a leisurely cup of coffee on the adjacent sidewalk table.
Then came covid. Like lots of places, the tables were put outside and then out into the streets. Now the streets themselves have been modified with somewhat expensive infrastructure. Restaurant dining has moved to the streets. This looks to be permanent.
I wonder about the mechanics of this, the legal elements. I don’t follow city matters enough to know whether the restaurants have to pay to be able to move their business out onto public property. Too, I wonder about those bars whose patrons seem to have moved out to the street – perhaps with beers in hand, to converse around outdoor tables or to play shuffle-type games into the early morning hours.
Sometimes it takes things going terribly wrong for them to also go terribly right. — Allen Best, Sept. 30, 2021