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Car Talk

A memo from the Office of Student Transportation

By Geoffrey W. Challen

Attention Harvard Students! Periodically we publish actions the University has taken to help us move efficiently and safely around campus. Here is our latest bulletin.

Given that John Harvard invented the combustion engine, to honor his memory, and in anticipation of great rejoicing among faculty and administrators, we have recently elevated fuel-burning vehicles to our primary supported mode of transport. All Harvard employees and contractors are henceforth encouraged to move around our campus in whatever manner consumes the most fuel and makes the most noise.

This has led to some changes you may have noticed. All paths wide enough to accommodate vehicles, such as the ones ringing the Old Yard, are now open to traffic. Pedestrians are reminded to yield to all moving vehicles, especially those idling menacingly behind you while you are strolling and enjoying a conversation. These vehicles are probably on a super-important mission, like reloading the Weld vending machines with Diet Coke. If you do happen to walk through Harvard Yard without noticing at least half-a-dozen vehicles, please cherish this anachronistic moment. And then immediately call 5-1212 since it is possible that a zombie invasion is taking place and you are in danger.

To further facilitate vehicular traffic we are revisiting campus traffic signage. As part of our new "Green is the new Red" initiative we are eliminating most stop signs, stop lights and pedestrian crosswalks. Stop signs and lights were generally ignored and crosswalks seemed to generate confusion, so this seems like an overdue simplification. Additionally, at intersections where stop signs have been missing, like the corner of Mill and Plympton Streets, drivers have been trying to hit students for years with limited success. Apparently students have developed excellent car-dodging reflexes and we trust that our new policies will allow you to use them pretty much everywhere. (For those of you new to campus we suggest crossing in groups large enough to sway the moral calculus of rapidly oncoming drivers. Twenty is a good starting point.) Finally, the walk light at the corner of JFK and Memorial drive will be shortened in duration from six seconds to two, and will only appear twice an hour. We trust that this will not inconvenience the agile, quick-moving athletes braving that intersection daily.

Finally, you can't have cars without parking. We know most students don't drive. Driving is a pleasure that's really only appreciated with time, and once you appreciate it you'll understand the importance of parking. PARKING! Now, we know that Yards and Commons and other empty spaces are sometimes considered important for gathering or lounging or whatever it is you non-drivers do when you're not spending hours enjoying Boston gridlock. But you have plenty of places to do those things! Look, we promise not to park in the dining hall, OK? But we're going to park everywhere else. Forget Frisbee, colorful chairs and those quaint white plastic barriers. Just imagine how gleeful the Yard will look shining with chrome! We're going to replace the guard at the Harvard gate with a guy waiving a checkered flag: Just $20 to park in historic Harvard Yard!

We're a bit out of breath from all this car talk, so let's briefly address that unimportant minority of you who get around some other way. We are stepping up our efforts to discourage bike usage on campus since we all know that bikes—unlike cars—are dangerous. Unable to learn the simplest rules of the road, and undeterred by the maze of one-way streets and missing bike lanes we have carefully constructed, bikers seem wedded to the strange idea that pedaling should actually be a faster way of getting around campus. Wrong. Only cars can do that!

So we'll make this real simple: Show proper respect to vehicles powered by polluting fossil fuels, or else. We don't mind if you jump lights, ride bikes without brakes, ride bikes you cannot stop at breakneck speeds, or blast through crowded crosswalks—just don't ever make us slow down. And helmets? Completely optional! The fewer of you clogging our streets with your slow, sustainable pedaling, the better.

Even though we've failed to address one or two esoteric forms of transport used by like, a few weirdoes living in the Co-op, we're running out of time so let's recap.

We all live and work together in a dense urban environment where there is never enough parking. Also polar icecaps are melting. What that all means is that cars are increasingly important, since we will need them to drive inland once the water starts rising. Of almost equal importance is parking, or places to put our cars in the increasingly rare moments we are not using them. But a dedicated task force is responding to this issue, and we can guarantee that Harvard's campus will be completely car-friendly by 2017.

Geoffrey W. Challen '02--'03 is a Resident Tutor at Eliot House. The views expressed are his and do not reflect official Harvard College policy.

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