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S400: Slow Down; Get Honest

2011 October 3
by Weston Brinkley

< Federal Way, WA; photo by Dan Bertolet >

We have sacrificed both space and time for speed of movement. We have bestowed upon speed an unearned, inherent value. But the trade-off for speed has gone shockingly unnoticed. Climate change, obesity, disease, malnourishment, traffic fatalities, environmental destruction, international conflict, stress and mental disorder, resources depletion and water quality aside, the glaring misstep here is the absence of the factual, truer human form.

We have a world constructed to be read and experienced only at high speeds. A complete world where we, as honest beings in simple pure form, cannot interact. We cannot understand our space, read our signs, access our structures, visit our families, complete our duties, or eat our food without a vehicle of high speeds. We have businesses that will not serve us as beings. Drive-ups, drive-ins, drive-thrus. Any typical office or shopping center will require you to traverse yards of desolate, vacant space to reach a front door. And more than our businesses and social spaces: our homes. We have made our homes fronted by huge holds for vehicles. We must scamper around to the side or up a flight of stairs in hopes of addressing this space, let alone hoping to enter. We move as people on the margin. We occupy the space next to roads. We have signals to tell us, as humans, when we can occupy our pubic right-of-way, and when we need to stay on the side. We must ask permission of a machine hand to enter our space.

In our speed, we travel as if transported. We enter our cars, or even our trains, and leave the world behind for a bland, artificial environment. We pass through communities, landscapes, people, destinations, sights, sounds, smells, experiences, and take little or no notice. When we reach our destination, we emerge hopefully without having to encounter the world before entering the structure of our travel intention.

The mindlessness with which this behavior takes place, and even has become commonplace, is baffling, if not straight shameful. We have turned our backs to the world, to new experiences, to the simple, easy, obvious, essential education of life. How can we call a place home if we don’t experience it, engage it, interact with it? Why would we move through a space without interest in it?

Pedestrianism provides full and complete access to the world. It is how we experience, how we learn and grow, make decisions and consider situations. This is time gained, not lost, through slow movement through space.

Speed is a function time and space. But why sacrifice our space and our time to it? Why sacrifice your honest self? A sincere encounter with ourselves and our space and time. Slow down.

 

< Pioneer Square in Seattle; photo by Weston Brinkley >

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Weston Brinkley is a pedestrian and resident of Pioneer Square.

 

 

 

3 Responses leave one →
  1. wave permalink
    October 4, 2011

    I’m with you.

    Several years ago my wife and I sold our house on Phinney Ridge, where our two kids had been born, and bought a house in Capitol Hill. There was a variety of reasons for the move, but one of the key ones was that we found that we had been driving more than we liked and spending too much time sitting on the bus going to and from work, grumbling as the bus would get stuck in traffic on Aurora. We moved to a location where we could both walk to work and our kids could walk to school. While I sometimes hop on my bike if I need to get to work quickly, I generally prefer to walk. It’s a great way to get some daily excercise, it’s free (other than needing to buy a new pair of shoes a bit more often), and, I think most importantly, it really is a great way to experience the city. When I walk, I notice things and interact with buildings and people in a way that just doesn’t happen when I’m driving/busing/biking. It’s also a lot less stressful than those other modes of travel. Walking at a decent clip gets my blood flowing in the morning, and walking home after work allows me relax after a day of stress and gives me that 30-40 minutes of fresh air after being stuck in front of a computer all day.

    This is not meant to be a snooty, “I’m better than thou” comment, but perhaps it will sound that way. But I’m really glad that we made that move several years ago. We spend a lot less time in the car than we used to and our kids (6 and 8 yrs old now) have become fantastic walkers who look forward to their daily walk to school and regularly ask if we can walk down to Broadway for dinner.

  2. Matt the Engineer permalink
    October 4, 2011

    Walking through downtown this morning, I noticed a man on the sidewalk holding a sign. It was something like: “Change only happens in the street.” I’ve thought about it many times throughout the day, wondering if it’s true. I don’t think it is, unless you change the “only” to “sometimes” or maybe “sometimes, when we’re lucky,”.

    I don’t think I would have noticed that sign from my car.

  3. Scott permalink
    October 4, 2011

    Hallelujah. Preach it.

    Let’s coin a term for that. Humanitarian design.

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