The pope came. The cars went away. Everyone had a great time. There has been an unexpected sense of joy about the open streets… excuse me, #PopenStreets …in Philadelphia this weekend. I just don’t get why it came as such a surprise to everyone.
I hate to say “I told you so…” but – who am I kidding I LOVE to say “I told you so…”
Think about every fun vacation you’ve ever taken; they generally don’t involve cars. Your favorite get-away usually involves getting off a plane, being chauffeured to your hotel, then spending the rest of your time on foot or utilizing some type of transit system. Tropical beaches are noticeably devoid of automobiles. Disney doesn’t let you drive around The Magic Kingdom; that’s pretty much the case for all amusement parks. The city of New Orleans closes Bourbon Street to cars every single night, not just for Mardi Gras. Vegas is open to cars but I think we can all agree driving on The Strip is the least fun you will have while you’re there.
Conversely, remember every horrible family vacation from your youth? Dad getting lost and refusing to ask directions, mind-numbing hours trapped in the backseat, posing for pictures at some roadside eccentricity… the fun never started until you got the hell away from the car. Road trips tend to be “memorable” more than they are “fun”, generally due to a combination of auto-related mishaps and boredom-induced wackiness. Yet Americans insist they love their cars. I say it is just a case of Stockholm Syndrome.
Speaking of falling in love with your abusers, there is a handful of locals who are not keen on this car-free Philadelphia. Daily News columnist, Stu Bykofsky commented that he thinks this is a conspiracy by SEPTA, as if more people using mass transit is a bad thing. But of course an old codger like Bykofsky thinks this way. The Baby Boomers are the ones who created our gasoline-powered prison. Their worship of the automobile borders on erotic. Seriously, go watch American Graffiti again; those teenagers aren’t just trying to have sex in their cars, they’re one step away from doing it with the cars. I feel like, somewhere at Skywalker Ranch, George Lucas has an outtake reel with Harrison Ford putting his dick in that Chevy’s tailpipe.
Most everyone actually spending time in downtown Philly this weekend seemed to be having a great time enjoying all the available public space. There have been some early murmurs that we should do this sort of thing more often. I concur; let’s keep this Open Streets idea going. Being that this city predates the automobile by a couple centuries, Philadelphia is the perfect American city to begin a shift away from a car-centric society. Hopefully the papal visit has opened some eyes to what life can be like when we focus more on accommodating humans than machines. Pope Francis has been a proponent for dealing with climate change; this might be his first great contribution to that cause. Thanks, Your Holiness. #PopeInPhilly