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Take a Walk

by claudia kousoulas on April 10th, 2012

Or try to. That’s the message of Tom Vanderbilt’s series this week on Slate about pedestrians–or without the perjorative that¬†he points out–people walking.

He makes a point that’s long frustrated me. Sooner or later, we all walk, even if it’s only from the parking lot to the mall. Something inside us loves to stroll. What is a mall if not a re-creation of an urban boulevard and witness the success of retail neo-main streets.

But we spend so little of our time, money, and thought on establishing and securing pedestrian environments. Even the fact that I describe it as a “pedestrian environment,” as a place apart and separate, rather than woven through our lives and communties–speaks to our separation from our feet.

Check out what Vanderbilt has to say…

 

 

2 Comments
  1. I have two observations regarding the problem of walking.

    One revolves around the nature of streets, the other, the value of time.

    American city streets tend to be neither walkable nor unwalkable, but instead some median state that achieves little. Careful observation of streets in Europe, in really great European city centers will reveal a category of arterial street that is hellish is a way that an analogous one in an American city is not. The European artery will typically have twice the lane capacity and bifurcate otherwise charming areas with a system choked with busses, two cycle engines, scant opportunity to cross, and other maladies that drive pedestrians to adjacent precincts. You can find them in Paris, Rome, anywhere.

    The point is that these European arteries are sacrificed for the greater good. They keep traffic moving while the real fun is in street after street of genuinely pedestrian pleasure just a block in. The American paradigm is to ensure that the artery never get truly out of control and the side streets never fully realized. Think of misguided attempts to turn Wisconsin Avenue in Friendship Heights or Rockville Pike in White Flint into something “freindly.”

    The other point is that errands take time. An errand can take an hour or 15 minutes. Given the choice between taking the car to pick up a library book or walking the same trip and getting encountering nothing more stimulating than a marginally elevated heartrate. Most will pick the car.

    The point here is that pedestrian effort can’t provide a single benefit. It ain’t worth the time. In an environment providing multiple benefits, it is. In this regard no amount of interesting pavers will do the trick.There needs to be something to do.

  2. claudia permalink

    I agree with both your points. The first from experience. I almost got whacked in Piraeus trying to get across a deadly artery to the charming harborside streets.

    And yes, a pedestrian enviroment is SO much more than pavers–and creating an environment of “mulitple benefits” is hard when proprty is developed at a car scale.

    Let’s see what Vanderbilt has to say tomorrow.

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