Circle the wagons

I understand that nostalgia is popular, but I have to ask, at what cost? A horse sharing the pavement with motor vehicles has never been a good mix, and the new business of offering carriage rides in downtown Asheville seems quite problematic.

Besides questioning the humaneness of forcing a single horse to pull a heavy carriage and six people up one of our steep streets while breathing in toxic exhaust fumes, it is clearly a public-safety issue. Do police cars, fire trucks and ambulances really need to be worrying about maneuvering around a carriage and horse [while] racing to an emergency?

More than 20 years ago, the Asheville City Council thoroughly studied the issue of allowing horse-drawn carriage downtown. Because of the extra danger associated with crowded streets, [Council] wisely passed an ordinance prohibiting carriages from operating in the central business district during the hours of 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and 4:45-5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Those of us who lived here in the early 1990s know just how sleepy things were downtown back then. I’m sure that evening weekend congestion today, especially during tourist season, greatly exceeds the daytime traffic of two decades ago.

If the increased automobile, bicycle and foot activity is not enough to cause an accident, add to the mix some of the noises that might spook a horse — sirens of emergency responders, drum circles, tour buses and trolleys with megaphones, the general unruliness of the downtown scene, etc.

Numerous injuries and fatalities of humans and horses in other cities are well documented, and a horse pulling a carriage in traffic is an accident waiting to happen. I encourage our current Council to follow the logic of their predecessors and recognize that carriage horses and traffic don’t mix. Let’s ban them before someone gets hurt or killed.

— Stewart David


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