Is Mass St. China's "air" apparent?

Over the last two years, my wife and I have run the streets of our fair Lawrence training for three half-marathons. So, you can imagine the excitement that coursed through my veins when I found my favorite running shoes (Asics Gel Nimbus) for $50 at the annual Lawrence Shopping Olympics last Thursday. Saving $70 on running shoes right before school starts may be important, but it is not as important as being able to run in them around a relatively pollution free town.Now that the Beijing Olympics are little more than two weeks away, the heat is being turned up on the Chinese government to ensure that the air quality in the city is clean enough for Olympic athletes. Marathon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie [announced in March][1] his decision to withdraw from the Olympic marathon because of concerns about the effects of the air quality on his asthma. Several national teams have decided to train in [Korea and Japan][2] in ahead of the Olympics as well, in part due to the air quality.As you likely have heard, the city of Beijing and the Chinese government have implemented an extensive pollution-reduction program to scrub the venues and tourist spots clean, [to the tune of $17 billion:][3]

Some athletes still have lingering doubts about air quality, but Beijing says it is making an all-out effort. It has spent 120 billion yuan ($17.58 billion) to clean up the environment, and already ordered 300,000 high-emission cars off its roads.
In order to take all of those cars off the road, the government implemented a system of restricting driving essentially to every other day: drivers with even-numbered license plates can drive one day and odd-numbered cars are permitted the following day. Trucks with high emissions are also forbidden, the city has opened at least four new subway lines and bicycle sales are skyrocketing. Many citizens commented that the new policies have [improved conditions][4]. But the same people also believe that after the policies are lifted after the Paralympics in September, the pollution will return.Which brings me back to the Lawrence Shopping Olympics at the sidewalk sale. The Journal-World estimated [20,000 people][5] made their way downtown to shop. Cramming 20,000 people into five downtown certainly generates considerable traffic on Lawrence roads, not to mention pollution. What if Lawrence created incentives for people to find alternate means for coming downtown? How about discounts at stores by producing a ticket from the T? Or, even better, tax rebates for purchasing a yearly pass for the T? What if Mass Street was closed to passenger vehicles and only permitted pedestrian, bicycle and bus traffic, like State Street in Madison or Pearl Street in Boulder? It would have been cool for stores to be able to spill out into the middle of Mass with food and beer sold on every corner? Would everyone drive less or just park elsewhere? [1]: [2]: [3]: [4]: [5]:


mjc 14 years, 4 months ago

Your suggestions would be a great opportunity country wide to cut down or eliminate congestion and pollution on main streets in college campuses. What a good way to impress upon students that we need to take the problem of pollution more seriously and to work to correct it both on and off campuses. Sometimes I feel that the best way for change is to show people directly on a day by day basis that there are alternative ways to do things to make our planet more inhabitable.

alm77 14 years, 4 months ago

We took the T. It was free that day and we didn't have to find parking. Personally, there are a few simple things that we've done. We live in Lawrence and my husband works in Lawrence, so no commute. We have an SUV and a station wagon, but we take the station wagon as often as possible, and we hardly ever go anywhere (especially out of town). Both my husband and I are taking college classes online, so no driving there. I'm pretty good at consolidating trips for errands and do one weekly run to Aldi and then immediately to Checkers for groceries. We live within walking distance of another grocery store if I ever do forget an item or two on my weekly shopping trip. I think everyone could do these things, and there are probably other people who have better ideas than these. I'd love to hear more.

Richard Heckler 14 years, 4 months ago

We live about a mile from downtown so we do a fair amount of walking,biking and occasionally the T. The other day in the Plaza I noticed a gentleman with his brief case strapped over his shoulder roller blading to the office I assume. He was doing twirls and such so obviously he was an experienced skater. A smile was on his face as well. A Sienna and a 4 cylinder Toyota pick up reside at our place. For any in town driving needs the 4 cylinder is the vehicle of choice. Friday we hauled 7 bodies to KCMO to watch "Kit" so the van went along. It been noted that most trips are 3 miles or less on average so this distance is definitely doable on bike,feet or skates. I believe most of us under estimate our abilities. Frankly 1-7 speed bikes are more than adquate cruising Lawrence,Kansas. Bicycles will last a lifetime. Us humans will die long before most bicycles ever think about giving up.

malehrman 14 years, 4 months ago

Good call Merrill. I think that if there were a few more bike lanes around town, Lawrence would be a great place to ride to work and around town. It could be easy to do if street parking was eliminated on major roads.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.