With the Washington region now in a tie for the second-worst traffic in the nation, some might consider yesterday’s first-ever “D.C. Car Free Day” to be a badly needed wake-up call. Let’s be clear. This cousin to bike-path liberalism, which is copied from other cities, has no impact on our gridlock. Just ask the commuters who piled up in the mess on 16th Street NW yesterday morning, or the denizens stuck on the Beltway, as they always are. The city can “raise consciousness” all it wants. Automobiles are indispensable.
Any realistic appraisal of our transportation woes begins with this: Many commuters have no choice but to drive. Our commuters arrive increasingly from the far reaches — with daily drives starting way outside the metropolitan area, as far away, for example, as Delaware, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. (And the job growth that comes with those long commutes is a good thing.)
“Car Free Day” is a feel-good, PR ploy — an opportunity for politicians to mug before the cameras. The idea borrows from the worldwide movement, which is generally accompanied by much dreamy rhetoric. The Washington chapter tasks itself with promoting “car-free development that enhances local and global environmental quality, improves public health, raises awareness of environmental issues, and fosters a sense of community.” Yesterday was the District’s first “annual celebration of cities and public life free from the noise, stress, and pollution of cars.”
But here’s the bottom line. Mayor Adrian Fenty is pretty much powerless to solve our transportation woes by himself, so he seemingly cedes ground to the anti-car groups.
There is no single preferable “lifestyle” in America. Motorists are free to motor whenever and wherever they can. It’s called personal freedom.