A path undesirable


For those unaware, there is something called a “desire path” which, despite the name, is not the most direct route to a prostitute, but is usually the most direct path formed when a people are presented with the choice to get to their destination. The smarter of city planners use their to their advantage and will intentionally leave a large grass field in a public space, allow people to walk over it and eventually put in concrete, permanent paths in the routes that appear. This has happened at various universities like UC Irvine as well as others.

The less apt of planners utilize what I call the “dong path” wherein they decide to make paths, routes, roads and whatever else only to please their ego and win them awards from their peers. You see this a great deal in hyper-designed Barcelona. The xamfràns of the Eixample District could arguably be called an early example of this and a 19th century take on the “dong path” given that the lobbed off corners of the buildings do increase the distance you have to walk and can be something of an inconvenience. They were intentional though as Eixample was created as a new “expansion” (which is what eixample means) of the city as at the time, the center was dank, dark, and with narrow streets that were prone to disease. Now these old streets are just prone to drunkards, but the use of the xamfrà on each building at the corner opened the intersections making for a something of public space at each crossing. Today they’re often used as parking by taxis and delivery drivers, but that’s another issue.

The true application of “dong path” technology has really been done in the last couple of decades in the post-Olympics period wherein each architect and planner was trying to outdo the one before them and create newer, more elaborate constructions with little regard to how people had to actually use it. It’s due to things like these that I’ve often found myself having to circle a city block merely because a traffic light couldn’t be installed where people need to cross the road or any other number of nuisances.

But while this is citywide, it’s taken on a more dangerous application in recent times where. Due to the proliferation of cars and people’s belief that they must drive everywhere in the city, there has been the inane attempt to make pedestrianized areas that still allow a small degree of traffic. The result is similar to if you were to run a sidewalk through the middle of a shooting range.

As I have personally seen with the remake of Mercat del Born (my previous neighborhood) this has failed miserable. Surrounded by four streets the market was designed to originally be a space of grand commerce and thus receive a dumpload of traffic; first by horse drawn methods and then motorized. With market operations having ceased 40 years ago and it now being turned in to a museum, the city decided to turn all these streets in to what is essentially a large terrace that will ultimately have outdoor seating for the restaurants/bars and the inability for anyone to live there (thus why I left.) While a gigantic turd rubbed in the face of longtime residents this could have worked were it not for still allowing traffic to circulate… sort of.

A tiny voice somewhere along the bureaucratic food chain said that if they made the area pedestrian, but kept traffic directions the same, someone would have immediately died as opposed to how they’ve now made it which will only lead to someone most probably dying. You see the “desire” of the cars is to still drive through the area. Upon occasion when I was “of car”, I quickly learned that I never wanted to drive through there as given there are no boundaries for pedestrians they generally walk like herds of drunken elephants with little thought to anything else given that the area should be only to walk in. But lo and behold along comes a car and it creates an immediate “huh, this is my space” “no, this is my space” especially if the latter is a taxi.

So now, despite creating this space with all the same level of paving, a groove is being worn in Carrer Fusina because everyone who comes down Carrer de Comerç with the expectation of going straight it forced to turn left. If there are no police around, they often do go straight thus defiling the grand space for restaurant tables that the designers had originally imagined but the neighbors are wisely fighting. More often than not they do turn down Fusina (as was originally “designed”) and then exit out on the back side of the market, all the while with this, “tapas…?” look on their faces.

There are two obvious solutions to this: actually stop all traffic from entering the area or make a defined lane for traffic to route people in the direction they don’t actually desire but must go. Something will need to be done at some point as there is an old saying of which I can’t figure out to attribute, “the path of water will be where it desires” or in this case, the path of those who are mentally deficient enough to insist on driving through the center of Barcelona.