It's nothing about streets or cars or Salem.
On the cover of the same weekend section, the main attraction is the wonderful spectacle of MarchFourth from Portland.
There's a lot of importing going on here.
A lot of the focus this year is about consuming entertainment a little passively - about a stand-and-watch, about street fair activities, about imports from out-of-town - and less about experiencing the city of Salem while walking and biking around it in a mobile and more active engagement.
The mixed messaging extends pretty widely.
For a good bit of the summer two images have been on Salem's Facebook header.
|Salem Sunday Streets Facebook Header|
|Salem Neighborhood Services Facebook Header|
an image from Eugene's 2011 Sunday Streets. That's 5th and Willamette right by the Oregon Electric Station.
It's kinda like stock photography, and the key message in the image is "yay family biking!" In this regard it may not be so important to have an image from Salem.
But it also seems like a sign that City Staff, volunteers, and others either aren't walking around Salem or don't think it's important to walk around Salem. Either they don't know that it's not from Salem or they don't care. More deeply, it's a sign there's a lack of a building-by-building, street-by-street body of local knowledge.
It could be, for example, that some of our problems with the way street trees are handled are because staff aren't out walking by these same trees and seeing their seasonal variation, seeing the way the trees actually work in relation to people, the sidewalk, and the building.
It is definitely the case that city engineers don't walk and bike often enough - if at all - along the roads and through the intersections they are ostensibly "improving."
When our knowledge of Salem comes from driving, we aren't able as easily to see when things "aren't quite right." (I would say that a huge part of our problem with downtown health is that we insist on seeing and "knowing" everything from the perspective of driving and parking.)
Without putting too much stress on the idea that Salem Sunday Streets is using the "wrong" imagery, I think the fact that the image from Eugene is being used in multiple places without comment is telling. Just as the focus on Portland's MarchFourth is telling.
As a measure of a kind of intimacy with Salem, it speaks to distance and lack. As a measure of mobility, it speaks more to drive-and-park and passive consumption than to creativity and active mobility.
|Full map and schedule (click to enlarge)|
In the end, the event will be great fun. It will have a magnificence. But the magnificence will be a little like strange necks and awkward poses of the birds of John James Audubon at Hallie Ford.
For many years I wondered why the birds didn't look "quite right." Finally I learned most of the birds were dead when he posed them.