Friday, April 14, 2000
Cars versus Pathways
I don't get it. Some say footpaths along the sides of our most heavily traveled roads would destroy the natural beauty of Carlisle. Anyone who has been reading this newspaper over the past several months must realize that a much bigger threat to Carlisle's natural beauty is the increased use of our roads by motor vehicle traffic coming and going due to unprecedented development in the area between Routes 128 and 495.
Take a look at the footpaths in Lincoln and Concord, which are not city sidewalks but pathways made of stone and clay, in many places separated by trees from the roadway and designed to enhance the rural character of their communities. Unfortunately, Carlisle's first pathway from the Town Hall to the center of town had no place to go other than next to the road. I would expect future pathways in Carlisle to follow the Lincoln-Concord model.
I have a friend living on Partridge Lane who would like to walk to the library or the First Religious Society on Sunday mornings. But as she tells it, walking down East Street to the center of town is a matter of dodging a steady stream of traffic by jumping in and out of roadside bushes. Walking on East Street can be a life threatening experience for those who chance it.
There are many of us who live on less traveled roads in Carlisle. In my neighborhood, there are walkers going past my house early in the morning, middle of the day, and at all hours on weekends. But what about the townspeople whose homes are situated on or just off major roads? In most cases they are forced into their cars to get to almost anyplace they might wish to go.
If we think traffic is a problem now, what will it be ten years from now? In this modern American society that we call rural, we have become captives to our cars. The freedom to walk safely to the library, to the post office, to the school ballfields, is a thing of the past. Children riding their bikes to school or over to a friend's house is something that doesn't happen very often nowadays.
With more and more cars on the road, we will need to find a way to enjoy Carlisle's natural beauty, not from the window of a car as we go whizzing by but on a pathway that lets us contemplate the community in which we live. I support the Carlisle Safety Pedestrian Committee in its efforts to build footpaths on our major roads. If that means raising taxes, I'm willing to pay for it.
Ready or Not
It is hardly breaking news to observe that the world is getting smaller. But I am nonetheless continually surprised to see just how small it has becomeand how quickly.
I recently visited Italy for the first time since 1979. A variety of small changes combine to illustrate a sea change in the global economic and political climate. For example, we arrived in Florence on a Saturday. Twenty years ago, that circumstance would have presented the challenge of finding a place to change money, and we would probably have been forced to change at the relatively unfavorable rates offered by a hotel. Today, of course, I simply used my ATM card to withdraw lira from an Italian cash machine whenever I was running short.
When I used the ATM (and with each credit card purchase), my receipt expressed the transaction amount both in lira and in its euro equivalent. Euro currency is not yet in circulation for consumer purchases, but my understanding is that it is now used for all inter-bank transactions and will be introduced for use in consumer transactions within the next eighteen months. Already, the effects of euro-related economic controls adopted by the European Union countries are evident in greater exchange rate stability. In addition, I noticed an interesting warning posted in the airport "duty free" shops: items would be "duty free" only when leaving the EU, not if purchased in transit between one EU country and another.
We changed planes in Brussels, where we went through customs and immigration. Persons holding EU passports went through a separate line, where their passports received a most cursory glance. When we arrived in Florence, there was no further immigration check. The same protocol applied on our return flightpassport control as we prepared to leave Europe, but not as we traveled from one European country to another. It is perhaps an overstatement, but the European countries appear to be operating together in many ways similar to the separate states in the U.S.
At another level entirely, we saw many examples of homogeneous global (or maybe more precisely American) culture. There were, of course, the ubiquitous golden arches of McDonald's, along with many other familiar franchises (including, for example, Mailboxes Etc.). Most people we encountered, particularly those aged 30 or younger, spoke fluent English.
Twin engines propel the trend toward a global economic and cultural union. One engine is the free and rapid flow of information, principally by means of television and the Internet. The other is the increasingly free flow of tradeamong producers, consumers and investors. Together, the political, economic and cultural barriers that historically have separated distant parts of the planet are falling as rapidly as the Berlin Wall and Iron Curtain fell at the start of the last decade. In a single generation, we have seen cultural differences among the various regions of our own country dissipate if not disappear. The ever-increasing pace of global trade and communication ensures that the same phenomenon will continue to expand its reach around the globe. Amid the inevitable change, our common challenge will be to identify and preserve those elements of cultural difference we consider important or valuable enough to hold distinct.
As the children ask in the television commercial, "Are you ready?"
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito