My recent vacation exposed me to something unique - a city completely devoid of bicycles. At first this might seem depressing, but it was a great thing because there was also not a single car in the city. Walking through the streets of this city I felt compelled to break out in a version of the Imagine song penned by John Lennon. Something like . . .
Imagine there's no cars
It's easy if you try
No oil stains below us
Around us only pedestrians
Imagine all the streets
Not lined with cars
Imagine there's no danger of being run over
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to cause fatal crashes
And no parking too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You may say that it's a dream
But there is at least one place
I hope someday you'll visit Venice
And see pedestrians as one
Yes, that's right, Venice is a city where the only wheeled vehicles on solid ground are those pushed or pulled by pedestrians. The waterways of the city have motorized traffic, but the streets are only inhabited by pedestrians. Part of this has to do with the fact that most of the "streets" in Venice are no wider than the wingspan of my arms.
It was rare to see any wheels, but those I did spot were of the hand cart variety. Take this "taxi" - it does not look that comfortable and maybe that is why I never actually saw one of these in use.
Human powered transport was the norm.
Remarkably silent and efficient.
The only bicycle I saw the entire time I was in Venice was being held captive in a window display.
One thing I did not see was any human powered water transport other than the traditional Gondolas. I thought I might see some sort of human water craft like these.
Image Courtesy of Castle Craft
Googling around for a picture of a water bike reminded me of the ultimate water bike which we featured on the site a while back.
A pedal powered water craft in a city where the streets are water makes a great deal of sense, which makes me think that there is some sort of Gondola lobby that prohibits such craft from the waterways in the city.
It was very refreshing to walk the streets of a city without vehicle traffic. In New York City the noise of vehicles is only quieted by major snow storms. I live on an avenue and not a minute passes without the "whoosh" of traffic and horns and sirens blaring. I especially thought about the fact that not once during my time in Venice did I hear a siren. In midtown Manhattan it seems that not an hour passes without a siren.
I know motor vehicles are here to stay and fossil fuel craft make wonderful things possible (I did not swim to Venice from New York, I rode via a rather comfortable Airbus A-380) but it would be great to see portions of major modern cities where motorized traffic is prohibited. NYC has made an effort to close some streets to traffic in recent years and I think it has been a stunning success. If you have thoughts or experience related to unique traffic patterns or policy, feel free to comment.