New Totalitarian Pandemic Power-Grab Idea: Permanently Close Some City Streets to Cars

These past few weeks have been far too filled with various attempts at crisis-induced power grabs by politicians, which isn't historically unusual. A pandemic is the kind of thing that calls for extraordinary measures but politicians almost (I'm being generous there) always try to get a little too extraordinary with their responses. It is almost as if they are genetically coded to try and take a mile every time a frightened public offers them an inch.

This is a truly bipartisan problem. The September 11th attacks did prompt a Republican president to create the Dept. of Homeland Security after all, a fact that still makes conservatives cringe to this day.

Very little time was wasted before a host of overreactions were suggested during this crisis.

Over the weekend, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo really let his totalitarian lust slip out for public display:

While I admit that it is a problem with most politicians, the totalitarian bent on the Left is, of course, much worse. The Democrats used to try and hide it  during elections, but that all ended with the current cycle.

I ran across the latest overreach idea before I'd even finished my first cup of coffee -- it was a big cup -- on Monday morning: use this time of panic to permanently seize some city streets and close them to motor vehicles.

The Verge:

The coronavirus pandemic presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for cities to remake their streets by taking space away from cars and giving it to pedestrians and bicyclists — permanently.

With public transportation ridership cratering, demand for Uber and other ride-hailing services fizzling, and people everywhere looking to get the hell off their couches and feel a little bit of breeze on their skin, the time for cities to take a bold stand against cars and parking is undeniably now.

Rapidly building out a network of protected bike lanes would let residents — especially those under “shelter in place” rules — use their bikes for necessary trips to the drugstore or supermarket, while also avoiding public transportation. Closing certain streets to car traffic can also help promote social distancing, since it’s undeniably easier to maintain six feet of recommended distance from someone else when you’re not confined to a narrow sidewalk. People are pouring into parks to get exercise and get some fresh air, making it more difficult for cities to control large gatherings and adhere to social distancing. Why not let them walk in the street?

I'm not even opposed to most of that as a crisis response. A temporary crisis response. Yeah, why not let people walk in the streets? For now.

The other big problem that immediately presented itself to me is that this idea probably sounds great to urban dwellers who can conveniently access things on foot anyway. Before I even checked, I was willing to put good money on the fact that this article was written by a New Yorker. Sure, he lives in Brookly, but it's still pretty easy to get to markets and pharmacies and the like even in the outer boroughs.

When I lived in West Los Angeles, almost everything I did was within five blocks of me. Now that I'm back in Tucson, my pedestrian situation has changed considerably. I'm no stranger to exercise, but I'm not going to be making a lot of shopping forays on foot to my grocery store that is a 3.2-mile round trip from my house. Our reality is a little more spread out here in the Southwest.

The last thing Americans need right now is an ever-growing list of things that we are being told not to do. We aren't very good with that, and that is where the crazy-making happens.

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PJ Media Associate Editor Stephen Kruiser is the author ofDon’t Let the Hippies ShowerandStraight Outta Feelings: Political Zen in the Age of Outrage,” both of which address serious subjects in a humorous way. Monday through Friday he edits PJ Media’s “Morning Briefing.”