|Capitol Avenue in Springfield, Illinois.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
We’ve been thinking lately about the idea of democracy and equality in our streets. Not in the sense of the Occupy Wall Street movement, but about whether all people who use our streets are treated equally.
We like to talk about how everyone is equal in the United States, and we’re supposedly a classless society. Yet, when we look at our streets, there are definitely classes of street users, and automobile drivers are the ones invited into first class.
Under our system, a person driving a motor vehicle is given the most space and the most advantages on our streets. But not everyone can or wants to drive a car. There are those who are not old enough yet, or don’t have the financial resources needed to own or operate a car. There are people who have disabilities that restrict or prohibit their ability to drive. In addition, more people are choosing not to own a car or use it for many of their trips, based on economics, convenience, concern for the environment, to get in a little exercise, or all of the above. In Chicago, about 30 percent of households don’t own an automobile. When those 30 percent take a bus or ride a bike, they shouldn’t suddenly become second-class citizens.