Friday, November 12, 2010

Social Pittsburgh?

When I moved to Pittsburgh 11 years ago, the most striking impression was to see the empty streets, nobody else walking around. It gave me the strange feeling that the world is ending and I am the last person on Earth.

After the first two years I traveled back home. In Paris, where I switched planes, I suffered for the first time in my life an anxiety attack, a crisis of agoraphobia. I felt like all those people were armed and dangerous and they would push me under the wheels of a car or off the subway. I felt like they were breathing all my air and all of them had bad intentions. Out of pure habit, because I became so used to the low density of people on the street. The first two days were the hardest and I was afraid I will never be able to recover. But slowly I went back to seeing the people walking on streets and riding on buses and the subway as being neutral, even nice, no matter their number.

Pittsburgh is a very pretty city with its hills, rivers, bridges and old houses, And nowadays it is also very clean. I saw pictures from its industrial past: it was maybe dirty, but also full of life. There were streetcars everywhere! When I realized one day as the asphalt was being repaired that on my own street there used to be streetcar rails, it broke my heart. Because that livelihood is gone along with some of that sense of community, security and the spark of real life, with the mixture of old people, children, men and women living together on the same street and walking without fear of being alone on the sidewalks.

I think that, if people used public transportation more, there would be more life around and the streets would give us a warmer feeling. By sharing the sidewalks, we would even relearn to trust one another.

B.A. was born, raised and educated in Romania. She is currently employed by one of the universities here and she is living in Oakland with her husband and Mitza, the cat. They are urban trekkers who love to take long walks during the weekend. They are also backpack- shoppers - they believe one does not need a car to shop for groceries for a family of two. When they moved to the United States they decided to never own a car because it is the best way to live urban. Car owners need more roads and that leads to suburban sprawl, they say, and suburban sprawl leads to more cars. It is a vicious circle one cannot escape unless one avoids car ownership.

On her blog Earthwalker she often discusses environment related issues and public policies. She strongly believes equal opportunities such as those offered by transportation and education equity. Her blog is also a place for her exquisite visual art creations.

No comments:

Post a Comment