car sickness on Capitol Ave

I walked by the section of Capitol Ave in Sacramento, east of 18th St, as I have done many times, but today it struck me how dead this street is, now. It was alive for a while:

Capitol Ave, Sacramento, pandemic street closure, August 2020

But now it is sick again. To extend the analogy, it has always suffered from car sickness (a street dominated by motor vehicles), but had a relatively brief recovery when the street was closed to cars and opened to people walking and bicycling, and now a relapse into car sickness:

Capitol Avenue, Sacramento, opened to cars but not people, June 2022

The street feels abandoned. There are no people walking or bicycling. There are a very few people at the restaurants. It is hot, hot, hot, with insufficient street trees and an overly wide pavement. Note that if the street were closed (to cars) again, the street could be significantly narrowed, just space for bicyclists. Parking, unnecessary. Bike lane, unnecessary. Travel lanes, just enough width for emergency vehicles. Leaving plenty of space for outdoor dining, and street trees, and even a little nature.

During the closure (to cars), the street felt alive, even when there were few people there, even in the morning before most of the restaurants opened. People were walking and bicycling, and hanging out.

I don’t know why the closure was ended, and all the street canopies and seating removed. I’ve heard a lot of different stories: it was the city, it was the Midtown Association, it was the business owners. So I can’t point any fingers. But what I can say is that what was once clearly alive is now barely hanging on. Will it die? Probably not, but it won’t ever be healthy again, until the cars are again removed.

Cars kill business, cars kill cities. Why do we allow our city to be dominated by cars?

Author: Dan Allison

Dan Allison is a Safe Routes to School Coordinator in the Sacramento area. Dan dances and backpacks, as much as possible.

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