streets that don't smell

I went down to The Embarcadero to see what this "Sunday Streets" business was all about. I didn't get there until it was almost over, and missed all of the events (including the mass "Thriller" dance at Peewee Herman Plaza, sadly) because it ran from 9AM to 1PM on a Sunday -- seriously, WTF? Who is out and about at 9AM on a holiday Sunday? All the fuss people were making about street closures for something that ended before lunch?

Anyway, it was very weird biking down that street with no cars. It took me a while to get it into my head that I could actually use the whole road, not just the bike lane.

The most striking part was how quiet it was, even though there were 10x as many people there as normal -- and how it didn't smell at all like exhaust. I didn't expect to notice that as much as I did, but yes, roads without cars on them don't stink! It's like when your ears finally pop and you can hear again. You don't notice it until it's gone.

It was even more noticable at 1PM when they opened the floodgates and let the noise and stink back in. Sad.

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9 Responses:

  1. injector says:

    I've only been to California once. But it was a similar experience stepping out of the airport. I'm used to how the shuttle area there should smell--mostly of diesel fumes. It didn't. Similarly, through-out Bay area the streets smelled much fresher than to what I'm used in the Washington/Baltimore area.

    So, if you think it normally stinks there, you should stay away from the East Coast.

    • evan says:

      My experience of Washington (state) is that the air is fresher than the bay area as well, so I guess there's a spectrum.

    • strspn says:

      Wait until our plug-in hybrid mandate takes hold. Drivers without impaired senses of smell? We could cut a swath into the fast-food industry, or at least make them offer more vegetable proteins.

  2. That is why I like to get out of the city more. Motorcycle or car. A starry night out in Sonoma, or a long stretch of brown plush hills on the way to Pleasanton ( as I just did on the way to the fairgrounds), or the twisties down skyline are nice little escapes....

  3. telecart says:

    Every year on the Jewish Yom Kippur holiday, there's no cars out on the streets here and kids ride their bicycles on the road. Pretty nifty yeah. The quiet. Who knew urban life could be quiet?

  4. benediktus says:

    in 1973, as a reaction of the 1st oil crisis, our gov came up with car free sundays and general speed limits. alas, not for very long. there were only 4 sundays with cars been banned nationwide. it didn't had any economic effect, put people got aware of the situation and acted. many liked the idea and began bicycling to work afterwards. a trend started back then - continuing today while gas prices go with light speed from ridiculous to ludicrous.

    good thing that there are initiatives for car free days.

    did you realize how much urban space there actually is when there's no car around? huge tracts of land wasted.

  5. jkonrath says:

    When I lived in New York, my favorite time was when it dumped a foot of snow overnight, and I went outside at like six in the morning when it still completely insulated the ground and trapped all of the exhaust particulate matter. There would be no cars on the road, everything would be quiet, and you could actually breathe. Plus it was all shiny white everywhere. And then, an hour later, all of the white snow would be grey and black, and it would be business as usual.

  6. joeystitch says:

    This is why I live out in the sticks. Though I do have to deal with the occasional (about once a month) smell of a nearby chicken farm.

  7. shandrew says:

    Every time the power goes out at work, I find it amazing how quiet and peaceful the office is, and how much of a lower volume I need to talk to coworkers.

    (note: once funding goes through, replace all noise boxes with quiet ones)