As you leave behind a car park and, after a 40 minute ferry trip, arrive to a much more peaceful wagon park, the car-free contrast is jarring. Not only is the setting calmer but the people have also relaxed. No one is in a rush to find parking, get luggage from the car, get on the ferry before it leaves. Each family walks down the rows of wagons looking for the one with their house number on it. These transport wagons sport a hitch to be mounted behind a bike but also two hand grips so they may be hand-pulled. These wagons are large enough to fit a couple large suitcases and some tired children. So begins the walk from the ferry terminal into town and to our rental home. The ferry traffic quickly spreads down the road as those with bikes or in horse taxis pull ahead.
The fresh air of hiking in the Pyrénée during the summer can lead to some random ideas. Julia, our good friend Anne and I went hiking last August for four great days. During one of the many conversations that occur during uninterrupted days of long talks, Anne and I made a pact to create awareness posters and an ash tray for the smokers around our building at the University of Luxembourg. Anne and I work in the same building. Our campus is a non-smoking area but this has little effect and no enforcement. Ash trays are located only at the entrances to the campus – there are none on campus. This leads to many smokers upon finishing their last drag dropping their cigarette butts on the ground or into storm drains by building door ways. Besides the obvious ugliness of dozens of cigarette butts littered on the ground there are also environmental impacts. The filters hold back much of the toxic chemicals from being inhaled and stay in the filter. As this filter dissolves and breaks down the chemicals typically end up flowing into the storm/rain water piping system which usually flows into nearby streams. These contaminants have obvious impacts on the health of flora and fauna downstream.
Many cities have green belts of either forest or agricultural fields. These areas are delineated and maintained to create accessible green recreation/athletic spaces, preserve rich agricultural soils, allow wildlife to return, improve air quality and simply provide aesthetically pleasing views.
Driving along the highway during the end of a 4,000 Km road trip, Julia mentioned that it would be interesting to know how much forest is required next to the highway to compensate for the C02 created by the vehicles on it. This obviously depends on the number of cars that travel along the highway, their speed, fuel efficiency and the type of forest along the highway.
Space is classified, categorized and used according to its designated purpose. Rarely are areas shared between purposes. Space, when allocated to a city department, is at a premium and unlikely to be partially used or willingly shared. In Vancouver I have seen the spaces between sidewalks and curbs be used by local residents to plant various flowers, shrubs and trees. In Luxembourg a park I regularly frequent has modified their lawn mowing behaviour. Rather than mowing all grass areas they have chosen to only mow paths, patches and soccer fields. The soccer field boundaries are walls of grass – helpfull in the sense of stopping the ball when it rolls out of bounds.
Letting the grass grow has some obvious benefits in terms of livable green spaces for animals and insects while some may see it as a reduction of human usable space. In order to satisfy and encourage grass lounging the city park service has left certain patches cleared. These are even more charming due to being surrounded by long grasses giving a sense of privacy and intimacy between your party and nature.
Perhaps dogs will also do their business in the long grass rather than the sidewalk (note: I have never seen a resident in Luxembourg clean up after their dog). City parks have been too accomadating to humans and not enough to nature. Leaving grasses to grown naturally tips this balance back so that you can experience a bit of ‘wilderness’ in a city setting.