One morning on my routine walk to school, as I pondered the topic of an essay, I wondered why the sidewalk was so quiet. I looked up and realized … I was the only one. No woman late to work with her morning coffee, no dog walker tied up among an abundance of leashes, and no little kids racing down the street. Unheard of in New York City.
New York has long been known as a “walking city,” but as the clock has ticked forward, and cars have become more advanced, it seems that my walking city has slowly crumbled away.
On that morning, as cars drove past and honked their horns, it became exceedingly clear where the people had gone. The clean city walkers had traded in their legs for the carbon emitting, yet fast moving, transport of a car.
As each Toyota, Audi, and taxi passed my view, a dark cloud followed closely behind. Throughout the day I could not clear away the images of empty sidewalks, and clouds of gas bursting through tailpipes. This could not be good for our environment.
That week my concerns only grew. I was seeing more taxis being hailed outside my building, jammed streets just blocks away, and more Ubers pulling up to the curb. It not only frightened me to see these things, but that I had also become blind to them. I got so used to seeing the city full of cars that I hadn’t noticed the drastic increase of them. Each block is producing more carbon dioxide, each taxi emitting more greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. I’m surprised we aren’t surrounded by a dark sheet of toxic gas.
Why has this happened? Why have New Yorkers taken the habit of driving, instead of traveling through less harmful means? It seems that though people want change, their daily needs have taken priority. Why walk to work if a taxi will be faster. Why wait for the unreliable and unsafe subway when an Uber is only a minute away. Why take a City Bike if you’ll sweat through your new shirt. These are the questions New Yorkers are subjected to everyday, and it seems as though making change will be difficult.
All around us, transit use is declining, car registrations are increasing, and the taxi industry has doubled. That is over 580,000 tons of carbon dioxide from yellow cabs alone. People don’t realize that by choosing cars over clean transport, they are releasing and trapping greenhouse gas into our atmosphere. This will only result in more pollution, melting ice caps, hotter temperatures, raging fires, and so much more. And not just in New York City. We contribute to the carbon levels around the globe, causing disasters worldwide. It’s not just our city we have to think about. And New York certainly isn't the only city with this problem.
I, along with every other child in the city, are being exposed to these harmful gases daily. Without significant change, the wonderful city we once knew will be unrecognizable. Global warming will increase, and there will be no more skating in Central Park, no more snow days where you can sit under the covers with a warm drink, and no sledding while the frost falls down on your lashes. And more importantly, this new environment won't be safe for the generations to come. I certainly don't want to live in these conditions. Do you?
But what could I do about it? Sure, I walk to school. I walk home. Even in the blowing winds, and freezing snow of Winter. But I am only one person. What can one person do?
After my week of worries, I set up a plan. Every day since I have gone up to a classmate, texted a family member, or contacted a friend. I was shocked to see how many people took a car less than a mile. I told them about my concerns, and voiced my ideas. By the end of the week, I had convinced ten people of my idea. Together, if traveling less than a mile, we will use a clean form of transportation to get there.
Though I’m starting small, I believe that ten people can grow into a hundred. And maybe soon enough, we can restore New York into a beautiful walking city it once was.
Sources I used:
Furfaro, Danielle; Rosner, Elizabeth; Brown, Ruth (2018, June 15) Why Driving in NYC Has Gotten Even Slower, nypost.com
Meyer, David (2018, October 3) nyc.streetsblog,org
Tirpack, Dennis and Bradley (2007, April 22) How Green Is My Taxi, www.nytimes.com