Sunday, April 24, 2005

I'm Back! What Urban Life, Rome

Back last night, after being awake for over 24 hours, getting home from Rome. The jet stream is strong this time of year, making for a quick trip from the U.S. to Rome, but coming home... nearly 11 hours flying time, much of it because of that headwind!! Other than a little jet lag, though, I'm fine.

What an interesting city Rome is. And talk about urban life! It is everywhere! Fun to compare to what we're talking about here in Salt Lake City. What many here wouldn't give, I'm sure, to have the kind of street life going on in Rome 24 hours a day.

Something that really struck me, though, walking around in Rome (and in Paris and Berlin last year) ... the cars! They are just about everywhere. Side streets with cars parked everywhere, and traffic going all hours of the day and night. It became brilliantly obvious that the cars were what brought most of the people to these cities.

Cars in Rome go everywhere (except for a few areas cordoned off for pedestrians only), even down some of the most amazingly narrow side streets. And people just walk all over the place as well. Drivers have to have a completely different attitude and approach to driving, because cars and people just pull out in front of traffic all the time. As I watched (and then did it myself) people just walk out onto streets flooded with speeding cars, and saw the cars come to a quick stop, then move on, I thought how many dead people would be lying all over the place here if we tried moves like that. But it seems to work in Rome... the occasional honk or hand wave, but mostly people just accept that's the way things are.

Oh, no question they all have pretty good transit systems as well... a must I think for today's major metropolitan areas. But they find ways to accomodate, or at least tolerate, cars. So much of our talk seems to focus on how to get cars out of the downtowns, but from what I saw in Rome and other cities in Europe, they just live with 'em. They seem to be essential, in fact, to get the volume of people into town to do all the things that we hope will be found in downtowns.

So, it appears that cars, love 'em or hate 'em, you've got to find a way to live with 'em, else you risk having all those drivers go someplace else.

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