Author of Blog: Daniel Day

Friday, February 20, 2015

Hemisfair Goes Backwards

On Wednesday, Hemisfair took down its famous Arch that stood at the intersection of E Nueva and S Alamo, and today, Friday, they took down the Clockless Clock tower.(Image 35-1)   These structures are in the way of motor vehicle traffic, and sorry to say that once it was a safe place to walk is now just like any other downtown street, little room for people, plenty of room for cars and SUV's. 

It's been all over the local news about the famous arch, the famous Hemisfair Arch that was the backdrop for countless summer time movie times on the wall of the Magik Theatre, the New Years Eve celebrations, and other events. And as usual, our local media is missing the real story, which is that this is the first step in plans to bring automobile traffic to a pedestrian only zone.

While other cities around the nation and world wide are working on restricting and even making some streets car free, San Antonio is going back to the 1950's when we dreamed of endless roads of driving your new car on.  Hemisfair said they're going to make it safer,  but let's be honest here, you have a very safe place already because people don't have to look over their shoulders to worry about a car running them over. Their quote from the Express News says it all

"The re-establishing of the street grid — pedestrian-friendly roads that will allow slow traffic and bicycles — is one of several facets of the park’s rebirth." 
Um here's the thing, Hemisfair is already a "pedestrian-friendly" place right now. I wrote back in July 2014, that you have a great place and that all you need to do is activate it. When you reopen it, you and I will have to worry about people texting while driving on how beautiful Hemisfair made the place to drive a car. This is like saying that we're going to improve La Villita by bring back cars to the old neighborhood.  There was a time as a matter of fact, that I've used Hemisfair Park on my way to St Philips SWC from their main campus on the Eastside BECAUSE THERE WHERE NO CARS TO WORRY ABOUT. As they reopen the park, I expect to see what I see on Houston St today and every weekend, people on bicycles running into people walking on the sidewalk because to many people are driving their cars causing a traffic jam.

If it was true that improving public space is to allow cars into that space, then why isn't La Villita jumping up to allow cars down Villita St between La Villita and the Riverwalk? (Image 35-4) Why is it when they redid Brackenridge Park, they removed the roads through the park and left only one that is connected to Mulberry?  Why is it that when we close off a street to vehicular traffic, we celebrate it as a major event called Siclovia?  It is because cars take up a lot of space, and they destroy places that they're allowed in.  Every time we make room for automobiles, people walking and people riding bicycles suffer because there's simply no defense against a 1,000+ pound steel cage and a inattentive driver, drunk or otherwise operating the vehicle. When Cars are slowed down or removed, people feel simply safer to lounge about and to exercise.  There was a time in America's History when we thought about banning cars from our cities or restricting their speed limits to under 20 miles per hour for back then, the streets where meant for people.  When car enthusiast saw this a threat to their driving, they launched an ad campaign to change the saying from "the streets are for people," to the current saying that we all know "the streets are for cars." 

Andrew Price recently said in a Strong Towns Blog Post quote:
"If we don't change our habits, our obsession with treating cars as the dominant life-form of our cities, catering to their every needs with congestion-free roadways and ample parking, will be the downfall of American cities. They are our bread and circuses. We know it's making us broke, and we still continue. It does not have to be this way - it is just a matter of priorities."

The good news is that despite the city's assistance to bring back cars to a people friendly area, is that you can bring back the friendly area for the people by simply remove the access for the cars.  It is a sad day for San Antonio for in other cities in North America and around the world are working tirelessly to restrict cars.  There was a time right after World War II that we thought of progress with the building of freeways.  Today, Dallas and Austin are looking into tearing down those freeways to revitalize the urban core, i.e. space for people.  San Antonio seems to be stuck in the 1950. It is sad to live in a city where progress is measured not by how many protected bicycle lanes that are available, but how much space is available to drive your car.  No Wonder there's a saying "Keep San Antonio Lame."

I'm not against the improvements being made, I'm against bad Ideals and this one just happens to be a bad Ideal. 

35-1: A picture of the famous Clockless Clock Tower that was right next to the Downtown All Around Playground being torn down.  Viewing South. 
35-2: A picture of what is left from the removal of the famous Hemisfair Park Arch.  viewing east.
35-3: A Picture of the famous Hemisfair Park Arch back in July 2014. viewing east
35-4: A Picture of Villita St in La Villita on the day that the they brought down the Clockless Clock Tower. Viewing West
35:5: A picture of Hemisfair way as it is currently is on Feb 20, 2014.  this time next year, cars will be traveling down this pedestrian space. 

Note About Story: 
I'm going to start doing a on the clock blog posting every First and third Tuesday of Every Month.  And On top of all that, when breaking stories like this happen, I'll be posting them when they happen. 

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