Commentary, Traffic calming

What real demotorization looks like

Photo by Mary Teresa Giancoli, Crisma Imaging

In May, Cap’n Transit highlighted this quote from J.H. Crawford:

Once the last car disappears from the street, it becomes a playground for people of all ages. This can be seen any day in Venice or Fes. Peace, safety and tranquility settle over the street, and a rich and vibrant social life takes the place of the stink, noise, and danger of cars.

This playground can now be seen on Governor’s Island. On Sunday we went with some friends to visit the island; one friend wanted to hear Judy Collins perform.

We had last been to the island in 2003, when it was first opened to the public. It’s a lot friendlier now. The ferry is relatively frequent and fast – except when it has to take on a full load of passengers on a weekend evening. Many of the houses have been turned into art exhibition spaces, and there is a creatively designed miniature golf course. There are multiple vendors of food and drink. These are especially necessary because the supply of potable water appears to have gone away with the coast guard.

Most excitingly, there are bike rentals. This gave me and my son the opportunity to ride a bike at the same time. We haven’t done it in Queens because I don’t feel safe with him on a bike unless I’m on foot to give him my full attention. On Governor’s Island, for $30 an hour a friend and I were able to rent a two-person surrey. It had seats for our kids in the front, and they loved it. We rode around the entire island in half an hour, and spent the other half hour visiting various sights along the way.

What is especially nice is that there are almost no motor vehicles on the island. Judy Collins’s equipment van was there, and a few other trucks for carrying large loads. There are several electric vehicles, including a few bus kinda things that seated about fifteen people, and shuttled them to far points on the island. The entire National Park Service appears to be suffering from severe muscle atrophy, since they seemed to be incapable of going five feet without getting into electric golf carts. On the whole, they were pretty easy to ignore, though.

Once we ignored them, what a feeling! In pretty much any park in the country, if you’re on a path that’s wide enough, you can’t escape the feeling that some self-important jerk will want you to move out of the way at short notice so he can trim some hedges or deliver a load of charcoal briquets. On Governor’s Island, we could walk all over without worrying about that. We could ride the surrey around the island and go as slow as we wanted without the possibility of being rear-ended by two tons of metal.

We had that peace, safety and tranquility, and that vibrant social life, that Crawford describes. Now that’s demotorization!

grvsmth (Author)


  1. ddartley

    Looks like great fun. My wife and I have been planning on getting our son into the kid seat of one of those surreys since we visited G.I. last summer; you’ve inspired me to get on the ball about getting there and doing it soon.

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