By Edith Morgan
We just returned from a long trip around the U.S. and saw so many different sights and solutions to the problems of how to live, that I thought I would share a few observations about what we saw.
Of course, construction is going on everywhere, whether in the near-desert environment of huge areas of the Northwest (going from Oregon to Minnesota by train lets you get a bird’s eye view of the vast areas as yet not fully colonized, the hundreds of miles of hills, mesas, mountains, rivers and other natural wonders), and the new cities of the West along the coast.
Coming back to Worcester in the midst of the various renovations and restorations, I get a better appreciation of all that we have to work with here: older cities have so many wonderful historical buildings, so many interesting public places, so many parks and gardens – great structures for all to enjoy and treasure.
We can learn much about making Worcester so much more “pedestrian friendly”; we can put up all kinds of new buildings, bring in new businesses, and try to encourage students and residents to visit them. But so far we have not succeeded in getting the kind of crowds we see out and about in so many other cities that attract thousands of pedestrians daily.
As part of our trip, we stopped in Portland, Oregon; we wandered about downtownand were very much impressed by the very “pedestrian-friendliness of the city: sidewalks were SO WIDE and so clean! And so artistically lined with large pots full of flowers and shrubs – and, of course, alive with people.
I was told they clean the streets regularly, and we spotted a sight familiar to most European travelers: persons in brightly colored vests, pushing carts with brooms and trash cans along the sidewalks. Automobile traffic seemed reduced, as there were great choices of surface, public transportation: electric streetcars, regular buses and of course the usual taxis.
There did not appear to be the awful clutter of huge advertising signs obliterating the view everywhere. And the new buildings tended not to be huge. Yes, I know, it is more expensive to build structures that have character and detail, but in the long run, saving money up front always seems to involve more expense later on. Worcester has so many structures to be proud of, many unique and built to last – buildings that were here before many of the western states even existed!
Perhaps it is easier to want to take care of what is new and shiny and clean; but I believe it is a matter of priorities. Paris, Rome, Venice, Montreal, etc. are all infinitely older than Worcester but have banned cars from certain parts of their cities, provided plentiful great public transportation, gotten their businesses to put artistic planters on the broad sidewalks, and encouraged seating (benches, tables and chairs) for patrons.
Worcester has begun to do some of these things, on a small scale. But we are still expecting litter and trash to be picked up by individuals and our streets to remain clean all year, except in spring and fall. We get what we pay for.