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02-03-2017 - The End of Cruising & A Rite of Passage...


The End of Cruising & A Rite of Passage


Look into your rear view mirror one warm, summer weekend night in your teenage years. You see the unwelcome sight of a police car's flashing lights. You wait for the officer to approach your car, and wonder what you could have done wrong. You weren't speeding and as far as you knew hadn't broken any other traffic laws.The officer informs you that you've violated the city's "cruising ordinance."

Cruising is defined as "unnecessary, repetitive driving." When I lived in San Mateo CA from October 1986 to May 1988, I would legitimately be driving El Camino Real from Hillsdale Boulevard to Highway 92. It would take me 45 minutes to go the distance of 1 mile. Cruising was still going strong but was eventually legislated out of existence some time after I got married and moved to San Jose CA. The ordinance addressed the problems of cruising-noise, disorderly conduct, urinating on people's lawns.

Cities and towns whose reputations have benefited from their cruising traditions have banned cruising. The most telling examples were Pasadena, California, made famous by Jan and Dean's song "The Little Old Lady from Pasadena," and Modesto, California, the setting for 1973's American Graffiti and an oasis for cruisers and drag racers. In both cities, cruising is now illegal.

Politicians blamed cruising for a host of other problems, some of which are the natural outcome of having too many cars driving the same street at the same time: congestion, moving violations, lack of access for emergency vehicles, loss of business by local merchants, pollution, danger to pedestrians, and noise from car exhausts and loud stereos. Other problems are more serious, including violent crime, prostitution, and gang activity.

In my younger days, I could see the fun of Cruising. Now in my 50s, I can see all the problems that Cruising can bring. Still, it's fun to think about those innocent times...

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