Monday, September 22, 2008

Oktoberfest and Public Spaces

Okay,I did make it to Oktoberfest. A friend and co-worker's band played on Saturday afternoon and we went to see him perform. As usual I did run into other friends and I must say we had a good time, even the little ones.

On our way back home we encountered a situation along a narrow roadway, whereupon we met another car traveling in the opposite direction, two parked cars on either side if the street and room enough for only one car to proceed through. We both slowed down, trying to gauge just whom got there first, then the other car stopped. This was all well and good, but he stopped in just the wrong spot for a smooth maneuver where nobody would have to stop. I mentioned to all in the car that this brings up, what I call the "general rule of public spaces".

The General Rule of Public Spaces states that if any one person or group of people wishes to meet or stop moving in a public space, it will be where it will inconvenience the greatest number of the other people in said space. Think about it, when someone walks into a room at a party or other event, the first thing they will do is stop. Stop and look around. It is even worse if they are a group, it then takes longer to decide where in the room to proceed. If a pair of old friends greet each other and talk, it will be in the doorway from one room to another, or at the only access to a seating area, or even worse, between your seat and the bar. I also think that the size of the impediment is inversely proportional to the impeded.

This general rule also shows up in a larger scale when dealing with larger events. Take the preparation for the downtown festivals that have been held lately. Now before I begin, don't go thinking that I dislike downtown festivals. I do like the festivals and they do much to bring life and vitality to the downtown area. I do pick and choose the ones that I will attend but they all have their place in the fabric of downtown living. What I have a problem with is the timing of the preparation for the festivals.

The last two festivals have been planned to begin on Friday nights, around 5:30 or 6 p.m. There fore the layout of stage, food booths and vendors stalls have to begin at noon or before. For the Roots and Heritage Festival this meant closing Elm Tree Lane early in the afternoon and causing an inconvenience to those who use Elm Tree to leave downtown after work, clearing the way for coming for the event to have someplace to park. To me this was only a minor problem. On the other hand, the Festiva Latino was on the Courthouse Plaza so about noon they closed Short St and two lanes of N Limestone. This of course backed up traffic past Maxwell St. and, due to a combination of lack of warning and adjusting of the traffic signal timing, backed up traffic on Main St and Vine St for several blocks.(probably also High and Maxwell)

I don't profess to have the answers for all this but I have been part of the planning and implementation of some large events and recognition of a problem is a step toward a solution. Maybe what Lexington needs is not only a special events person(which we have) but also a logistics person to direct the setup of all downtown events. Someone who can coordinate manpower and have the material/equipment to place everything accordingly. I know that we have had some of these people in the past but it seems we lack them now.

On a final note, I wish that the people of Lexington, those who attend these public gatherings, be they small or large, would try to take care of their public spaces as they would their homes. Simple things like no littering and cleaning up after themselves. The cleaning fairy is not on retainer in Lexington. Even the Farmers Market is not immune and some of the vendors in the summer, at the height of the season, have left the area worse than they found it. This is a problem with the festivals and the Streets and Roads crews do not power wash when they clean up. I just wish that Lexingtonians would take care of their public spaces as they do their homes, but looking around, maybe they do.

Until next time.

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