Tag Archive: traffic

Must Paris Reconquer the Seine?

La Seine. Photo © 2012 Alan Miller.

The global city is an oxymoron. No one lives there. Any decent-sized city is an intensely local argument generating machine and the way in which cities fight about architecture is as revealing as the materials of their curbstones. These arguments are unfolding history. It’s worth paying attention to whether they are depressing or enlivening, who participates in them and for what reasons. In the midst of relentless planetary crisis, these juicy little local fights can seem unimportant. A dispute such as the current one about the future of the banks of the Seine might seem indulgent until one remembers the hardly old but nevertheless a bit out of fashion adage about thinking globally and acting locally. Aside from what they can teach us, local questions provide a bastion of the real against all the gloppy, terminally imprecise words about global this and global that. At a certain point the urge to turn away from the virtual and toward the animal, the mineral and the vegetal becomes overwhelming and probably healthy. Perhaps the only way to overcome, or at least hide from the hegemony of numbers will be, like Laurel and Hardy taking the sea air in Saps at Sea (1940), to seek out familiar places where the discourse suits us.

Faut-il reconquérir la Seine?

La Seine. Photo © 2012 Alan Miller.

La ville mondiale est un oxymoron. Personne n’y habite. Une grande ville est, parmi autre choses, une usine qui fabrique les polémiques locales et la façon dont ces disputes se déroulent est aussi révélatrice des différences entre les villes que les matériaux de leurs trottoirs. Ces arguments sont une histoire vivante. Quoiqu’ils peuvent sembler sans importance par rapport aux crises mondiales sans fin, il vaut la peine de les faire attention. La controverse à Paris autour de la réaménagement des voies sur berges de la Seine peut sembler indulgente si on ne souvient pas l’adage, pas tout à fait à la mode, de penser global agir local. Ces polémiques locales ont beaucoup à nous apprendre mais leur plus grand valeur est comme un bastion contre l’imprécision des discussions incessantes des questions mondiales. Le désir de virer vers l’animal, le végétale et le minérale plutôt que la virtuelle est quelquefois irrésistible et probablement bon pour la santé aussi. Le seul moyen d’échapper ou de se cacher du règne des chiffres est peut-être, comme Laurel et Hardy cherchent l’air frais du mer en Saps at Sea (1940), de retrouver les lieux familiers ou la conversation est intéressante.

Towards Bikeopolis, Part 1

One recent morning I witnessed a rare sight; two children, almost certainly brother and sister, were riding their bikes to school. They wobbled along the sidewalk of a busy road. The boy pedaled ahead on his BMX while the girl’s bike was too big for her, its chain rusted to the point where, rather than shift gears, she walked the slightest rise. Commuters alone in their cars sped by on the way to work, their kids’ schools, gym or supermarket. This being outer Sydney, the street made not the slightest accommodation for the two kids and their healthy, intrepid mode of transportation.

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