Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Living with the Past: Cobblestone

A typical narrow street in old Piacenza, Italy. Some random thoughts:

Who cleans up? Cigarette butts, oil stains... It used to be horse droppings and human waste. In Piacenza I saw a tag-team approach where a man wielding a twig-broom (the old) would be followed by a mini-streetsweeping machine (the new).

Compromise: The street can barely accommodate cars - and yet you will encounter city buses! (Small buses, but still...) There is no place to park. The sidewalk is too narrow to feel safe and wouldn't accommodate a wheelchair. In practice, people overflow the sidewalks or ignore them and walk down the middle of the street.

No asphalt, no concrete. Instead we have quarried setts for the roadway, granite slabs for the sidewalk. Built by craftsmen for human use.

A theory is making the rounds among urban planners to give streets back to pedestrians much in the manner as they exist here, where the car is the lower priority and has to make its way, politely, among the crowds. This theory, in the USA at least, is still in the crackpot category.

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